100 beds blocked each day in Sheffield hospitals

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Scores of beds at Sheffield’s hospitals are being taken up by patients well enough to leave but with nowhere to go to.

Figures reveal more than 100 beds a day are unavailable at Sheffield’s adult hospitals despite patients being ready to be discharged.

The bed-blocking is triggered mainly by delays in getting care for people at home or in the community - and limits the number of new patients who can be admitted.

According to the statistics released by NHS England, as of last Wednesday Sheffield had the second-highest rate of ‘delayed transfers of care’ in the country, with 112 patients stuck at hospitals including the Northern General even though they were fit to go.

It costs the NHS around £260 a day to keep one patient in hospital.

Kevan Taylor, chief executive of Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, said winter weather had caused more frail elderly people to fall ill, increasing the number of unavailable beds.

He added millions of pounds is being invested in providing rehabilitation, as well as longer-term care, through a scheme called Right First Time.

But charity Age UK says the NHS is coming under increasing pressure because of cuts to social services.

“The number of people who remain in hospital, but are medically fit for discharge, fluctuates day-by-day,” said Mr Taylor.

“Traditionally the highest peak is in winter months because there are a higher number of frail elderly patients whose discharge is often more complicated and takes longer to put appropriate support in place.

“There are a number of reasons why a patient’s discharge may take longer due to individual patients circumstances.

“As well as this, there is an increase in demand for rehabilitation and nursing or social care support due to the growing, ageing population of the city. This inevitably has an impact on how quickly patients can be discharged from hospital.”

He added: “To tackle this problem, all the NHS organisations in the city and the city council have recently come together as part of the Right First Time partnership and invested several millions of pounds in developing additional rehabilitation services including extra nursing and social care places.

“Some of the extra services only came into operation in recent weeks but we are beginning to see some improvement.”

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals were second to Oxford University Hospitals in the figures covering last week.

Nationally, the number of NHS patients bed-blocking has reached its highest level in three years.

“The social-care system is being stripped to the bone, with access to high-quality social care becoming ever more difficult as vital services are withdrawn or reduced,” said Age UK’s director Caroline Abrahams.

“The NHS will struggle to cope with the increasing pressures brought on by lack of social care provision, unless the system is radically reformed and given adequate funding.”

Mr Taylor, who is also lead executive officer for the Right First Time partnership, said: “We will continue to focus our efforts on reducing any delays so hospital beds can be prioritised for those patients who need that acute level of care.

“For example, there is now a weekly meeting which includes representatives from health and social care who try to actively manage the flow of appropriate patients through from hospital into community based services.”