Elderly patients 'marooned' in hospital beds due to care delays

Increasing numbers of elderly and frail patients are being 'marooned' in hospital beds, a leading charity has warned.

Health

Age UK said that the number of patients who are medically fit but unable to be sent home from hospital due to problems with social care has soared in recent years.

It comes as new data also shows that one in 12 patients taken to hospital by ambulance are stuck outside A&E for over an hour before being seen.

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Statistics published separately yesterday by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) suggests thousands of patients across England face long delays.

Age UK said that delayed transfers of care to social care in 2016/17 led to 778,860 lost bed days - a 113 per cent increase from 2013/14. Meanwhile, 1.3 million bed days were lost last year due to problems within the health service itself, the figures show.

The charity calculated that nearly one million bed days were lost last year when it added the figures for delayed days lost to social care and delayed discharges due to problems in both parts of the care system. Delays typically affect older patients, it said.

It said that staying in an NHS bed can cost around £2,500 a week compared with around £500 for a place in a care home, with even less for home care.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said: “Increasing numbers are being marooned in their hospital beds, losing muscle tone and risking infection when they are medically fit enough to leave, often because of acute shortages of social care, especially of the home visiting kind.

“There is no doubt that some older people’s chances of a good recovery are being totally undermined as a result.”

NHS England said that hospitals are planning to open up more than 3,000 extra beds this winter and work is under way to free up 2,500 beds by reducing delayed transfers of care.

The CQC’s data was based on a survey of 45,000 people who received urgent and emergency care from 137 NHS trusts in England between October 2016 and March 2017.

Scaled up across England, thousands of patients waited more than an hour to be seen by A&E staff.

Hundreds of survey responses came from people at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

In terms of waiting times, the CQC said each of these were “worse” in comparison to other trusts. Doncaster and Sheffield received a patient response rating of 5/10 overall for waiting times, and Bradford scored 5.1/10.

Patients scored Doncaster 1.8/10 on their experience of being told by staff how long they would wait to be examined.

However the data did not indicate exactly how long people were waiting at these trusts.

David Purdue, Chief Operating Officer at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals, said: “Despite increased attendances, the Trust has one of the best performing Emergency Departments in the region, seeing 93.49 per cent of all patients within the national four hour access target. This puts us into the top 25 per cent of health providers not just locally, but nationally.

“Patients arriving at our Emergency Departments, in both Doncaster and Bassetlaw, are assessed upon arrival by a trained health professional, making use of a triaging service which ensures that patients are signposted to the appropriate place for their required treatment.

“The recent survey identifies what we are doing well, but more importantly where we can look to make improvements to patient experience, including how we communicate with our patients to appropriately manage expectations.

"We are looking into a number of innovations to ensure that the people of Doncaster, Bassetlaw and beyond experience the best possible service when visiting our Emergency Departments, as well as receive the highest quality care at all times.”

Kirsten Major, Deputy Chief Executive, Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: "It is really important to us to hear the views of our patients and we are pleased that patients were pleased with the standard of care and information they received in our emergency department.

"We also do everything we can to keep waiting times as low as possible even when we have peaks in demand during the winter months when this survey took place.

"Indeed for the last six months our figures show that 9 out of every ten of our patients were seen, treated and discharged or admitted to a ward in four hours or less. We are never complacent and continue to make waiting times as short as possible.”

The Bradford trust was also contacted for a response.