Five beds a day lost to '˜blocking' at City Hospitals Sunderland

Patients block five beds a day at City Hospitals Sunderland, NHS England figures show.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 09 January, 2019, 05:00
NHS England figures have revealed the rate of "bed blocking" at health trusts.

In October, patients at the City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Trust spent a total of 170 days waiting to be discharged or transferred to a different care facility.

That’s equivalent to nearly six months of waiting time.

The #TheresNoBedLikeHome team at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

The figure for the same period at neighbouring South Tyneside District Hospital worked out at three beds a day being blocked.

Health bosses say that both areas “consistently perform among the best in the NHS” for making sure patients get home as soon as possible.

The figures show that 82% of these delays were caused by problems with the NHS, like waiting for a bed to open up in a rehabilitation centre or mental health hospital.

A further 18% were caused by problems with social care, such as delays in setting up community care or special equipment at home.

A delayed transfer of care occurs when a patient remains in a bed after being officially declared safe for transfer by both a doctor and a multidisciplinary team, which could include social or mental health care workers.

The figures do not include delays in transferring a patient between wards, or from one acute hospital to another.

Independent healthcare charity the King’s Fund has said that the process is sometimes lengthy, and there could be many more people who were safe to leave hospital, but had not been officially signed off.

Delayed transfers of care have the greatest impact on elderly patients. According to the NHS, for a person over 80 a hospital stay of more than 10 days can lead to 10 years of muscle ageing.

Across England, an average of 4,737 beds a day were blocked in October, representing roughly 4.3% of all occupied beds. The Government’s target is 3.5%.

This resulted in a total of 146,861 delayed days, equivalent to just over 400 years of lost time.

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The national rate peaked in February 2017 at a rate of 6,660 beds per day, but has decreased fairly steadily over the past year.

A report on delivering care for older people released this year by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) highlighted concerns about Government targets for delayed transfers of care.

The report, Beyond Barriers, cautioned that trusts focusing on trying to hit government targets might end up delivering lower quality care as a result.

The CQC said that it is recommending a more joined-up approach to health and social care, and performance measures for the care of elderly people.

A CQC spokesperson said: “As our report highlights, there is too much ineffective co-ordination of local health and care services – leading to fragmented care for older people.

“Our measures would reflect the contribution of all health and care organisations, rather than relying primarily on information collected by acute hospitals.”

A spokesperson for the NHS said: “A growing proportion of people are getting same day emergency care which prevents the need for an overnight stay.

“Hospitals also have freed up an additional 742 beds, by working closely with councils to help more people return home with the right care in place.”

Dr Sean Fenwick, director of operations at South Tyneside and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trusts said: “In both South Tyneside and Sunderland we consistently perform amongst the best in the NHS, both regionally and nationally, for making sure patients get safely home as soon as possible after a stay in hospital.

“We have very strong relationships with colleagues in social care, mental health and other parts of the local health care system to make sure the needs of our patients, and their carers, can be met at the right time and in the right care setting as we know people generally recover much better in the comfort of their own home.

“It is important to understand that there can often be many complex reasons why patients sometimes stay in hospital longer than necessary, including patient or family choice, and our collective priority is always to make sure each and every person receives safe, timely and effective care which delivers the best possible outcomes.

“This truly integrated approach involves teams from different organisations working together for the benefit of patients and our #TheresNoBedLikeHome initiative is a very good example of our combined efforts to help identify any wasted time in a patient’s care journey and resolve delays to get patients safely discharged home.”