For all the additional funding, hospital planning and parliamentary questions fired at health ministers, the problem of bed-blocking continues to plague the NHS.
An investigation by The Yorkshire Post reveals that some patients have been stuck in hospital for up to five months despite being fit to go home, amid warnings that a winter care crisis has effectively continued throughout the year.
This is deeply troubling and the fact that these unnecessary delays are no longer just a seasonal crisis ought to set alarm bells ringing. Quite simply, this problem has been allowed to fester for far too long.
At the start of the year the Red Cross said the NHS was facing a “humanitarian crisis” with hospitals and ambulance services struggling to keep up with rising demand. It was a description roundly rejected by Theresa May who said the remarks were “irresponsible and overblown”.
Nevertheless, it highlighted the growing sense of alarm felt by many people and more recently we have the Royal College of Surgeons warning that the NHS could face a “winter of woe” unless hospitals and local authorities tackle the problem head on.
The government has given councils an extra £1bn this year for social care services to help relieve the pressure on hospitals, however earlier this month hospital bosses were warned that the NHS in England could face its worst winter in recent history if it doesn’t receive an emergency bailout needed to help pay for extra staff and beds.
Bed-blocking shouldn’t be seen as an unavoidable annoyance. It is a blight on the country’s finances and the health and morale of those who, through no fault of their own, find themselves marooned in a hospital bed despite being well enough to leave.
With winter just around the corner it is imperative that action is taken before the situation deteriorates even further.