Yorkshire hospitals facing bed blocking epidemic

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HOSPITALS across Yorkshire are being hit by a dramatic rise in bed blocking amid warnings of worsening pressures on NHS services.

Latest figures reveal there were a total of 21,698 days of delayed discharges in hospitals serving the region in the three months to November.

The total is up 50 per cent on the same period last year at an estimated extra cost to the NHS of £1.9m.

The surge is one of a number of signs of growing pressures on the NHS, which must make efficiencies of £20bn by 2015.

Hospitals are likely to be worst hit by savings programmes. Other key indicators of hospital performance reveal ambulances are facing longer delays handing over patients at A&E, waits for treatment in casualty are growing and sick patients are waiting longer to be admitted to beds.

Worst hit by bed blocking is the Hull and East Riding trust where numbers have risen more than three fold since last year when there were 1,220 days of delayed discharges from September to November compared to 4,115 this year.

Of 16 NHS trusts serving patients from the region, 10 have seen increased delayed discharges, with numbers more than doubling at the Doncaster and Bassetlaw trust.

The main exception has been the Calderdale and Huddersfield trust where there has been a dramatic reduction from 575 days over the same three-month period in 2010 to only nine in 2011.

Two thirds of delays are being blamed on problems within the NHS despite swingeing cuts in social services budgets.

Each delay costs the NHS £260 a day, amounting to more than £1m in the last three months alone at the Hull trust.

Jo Webber, deputy director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said the figures underlined growing pressures as money became tighter, both in the NHS and local authorities, and the impact of more and more frail elderly patients with multiple illnesses.

“What it shows is that the system is finding it more difficult to cope,” she said. “The shape of demand is changing, with demand for unscheduled care going up four per cent a year and we will have to deal with that within the resources we have already got. It will mean re-shaping the system and difficult decisions about what we do and where people can get their care from.”

Coun David Rogers, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “These figures highlight the importance of professionals working together to improve outcomes for everyone.

“The return of key areas of health to the remit of local government presents a great opportunity to fully integrate health, public health and social care and ensure councils and the NHS work in partnership at a local level to secure the health and wellbeing of the communities we serve.”

Amanda Pye, chief operating officer at the Hull trust, said: “We know and accept that we have some issues with delayed discharges and we work very closely with our partners both within the NHS and social care to ensure patients are moved out of hospital in a timely and safe manner.

“At present we review all delayed discharges with our partners to establish which patients can be transferred to another care setting and we have a joint transfer of care policy to minimise delays within the health system.”

A spokesman for the Calderdale and Huddersfield trust said it had reduced delays by adopting an initiative which gives staff an instant up-to-date overview of beds on all wards and when a patient is due to be discharged.

“This means we can focus on making sure their discharge is both a smooth one and is well supported,” he added.

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