A record number of patients are being kept in hospital too long and piling further pressure on hospitals, NHS England has revealed.
Almost 148,000 extra days than necessary were spent in acute or social care in September according to newly published statistics – a rise of nearly 10,000 on the same month last year. Of these 62 per cent were attributable to the NHS, 31 per cent to social care and the remaining 7 per cent attributable to both areas.
On the last Thursday in September alone there were 5,247 patients awaiting discharge at midnight, of which 3,500 were in hospital.
The main reason for NHS delays was “patients awaiting further non-acute care” while in social care it was “patients awaiting care package in their own home”.
Healthwatch England said the record number was “staggering” and that delays would continue to rise with pressure on A&E increasing as winter sets in.
Anna Bradley, Chair of the independent health and social care consumer group, said: “Yet again, the number of people being kept in hospital when deemed fit to leave has increased.
“A staggering total of 59,000 people were kept in hospital longer than they should have been over a 12 month period with figures in August higher than any other point since January – and this shows no sign of slowing.
“These figures suggest the health service could be in for a long and over-burdened few months unless all services act now to avoid the same mistakes made last year.”
Mrs Bradley called for all staff across health and social care need to commit to involving patients and relatives in planning how and when they are going to leave hospital “from the very first moment they are admitted”.
She said: “This approach will ensure people get home from hospital sooner and safer, as well as freeing up thousands of beds, easing pressure on services and saving money this winter.”
A NHS England spokesperson said: “It’s important patients who are well enough to leave hospital can do so at the earliest opportunity and are helped to recover with dignity and compassion. These figures underline both the importance of joined-up care within the NHS, and hospitals’ clear dependence on well-functioning social care services - particularly for older people living at home.”
The figures were published among other data which showed the NHS missed all its main targets in September including those for A&E admissions, cancer referrals, ambulance response times and NHS 111 calls.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The NHS is busier than ever which is why we’re investing the extra £8bn the NHS asked for. This will tackle the underlying challenges to join up care for patients, improve access through seven day services and do more to prevent illness in the first place.”
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