£800m: NHS hospital bill for old folk with nowhere else to go

Delays in discharging older patients from hospital when they no longer need care is costing the NHS in England more than £800 million a year, a new report has concluded.

Delays in discharging older patients from hospital when they no longer need care is costing the NHS in England more than £800m a year

The health service is shelling out £820 million every year on so-called bed-blocking - which occurs when patients are medically fit to leave but care has not yet been organised to help them outside of hospital, according to a new report by the National Audit Office (NAO).

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Earlier this year it was revealed that the bill to Yorkshire hospitals because of ‘bed blocking’ was a staggering £32m in 2014/2015 due to the practice occuring on more than 100,000 occasions in the region.Older people are cared for in hospital by the NHS, but once discharged some may need short or long-term support from their local authority or community health services. This can include being helped to live at home or being put into a care home.A recent report by the King’s Fund highlighted that at the end of March 2016 more than 5,700 patients were delayed in hospitals, an increase of 15 per cent over the year and the highest number since 2008.The authors of the latest report estimate that around 85 per cent of delayed transfers of care are of patients aged 65 or older.The official number of reported hospital bed “days lost” due to delayed transfers of care - the total amount of days patients around the country are in hospital beds unnecessarily - was 1.15 million in 2015, a “substantial” 31 per cent jump from 2013.But the authors called into question the official data and suggest the figure may actually be much larger. They estimated that it could be as high as 2.7 million “bed days” a year.The report said the main drivers for this rise are people waiting longer for home care packages or nursing home places. The authors point out that local authority spending on adult social care has reduced by 10 per cent in real terms since 2009-10.Difficulties in staffing problems across the health and care sector are another cause of delays, they said. Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “The number of delayed transfers has been increasing at an alarming rate but does not capture the true extent of older people who should not be in hospital.“While there is a clear awareness of the need to discharge older people from hospital sooner, there are currently far too many older people in hospitals who do not need to be there. Without radical action, this problem will worsen.”