Bed-blocking leads to 1,000 days of wasted hospital care in Sheffield

Sheffield's Northern General Hospital
Sheffield's Northern General Hospital
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Bed-blocking patients spent more than 1,000 days stuck on Sheffield’s hospital wards in a single month – despite being well enough to leave.

Across Sheffield’s adult hospitals, 1,275 ‘bed days’ were wasted in October on delayed transfers of care, where patients are fit to go but cannot be discharged, limiting new admissions.

The NHS England statistics showed the majority of the bed-blockers were waiting for an assessment to be completed, further healthcare to be provided or a support package in their own home to be arranged.

But the figures in Sheffield have more than halved since last October, when 2,721 bed days were lost. Last winter, the city had the second highest level of bed-blocking in the country, with rising numbers of frail elderly patients causing scores of beds to be unavailable each day, hitting a high of 144 in January. John Campbell, secretary for the Unison trade union branch at the city’s Northern General Hospital in Fir Vale, said the problem was a ‘massive waste’.

He said it was made wors e by cuts to care home services.

Mr Campbell said: “It might be 1,000 days, but when you look at the number of staff involved in looking after a patient – doctors, nurses, support workers, catering – that’s a lot of money in terms of wages coming out of the NHS. It isn’t helped by the number of care homes which have been closed, because the options are then reduced for getting patients out of hospital.

“It means people waiting for operations are unable to get in and A&E patients who desperately need to be admitted cannot be seen as quickly as staff would like them to be. It’s a waste of resources. Nationally, it will run into millions of pounds, which could have been used to give health service workers a pay rise.”

Last week, NHS staff staged a second four-hour walkout over the Government’s refusal to approve an across-the-board, one per cent pay increase. It costs about £300 a day to keep one patient in hospital.

Kirsten Major, director of strategy and operations at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said the number of people who remain on wards but are medically fit for discharge ‘fluctuates day by day’.

Ms Major said millions of pounds has also been spent in Sheffield on a project called Right First Time, which involves developing rehabilitation services and providing more social care places.

“Since October 2013 we have reduced the number of days patients wait to go home by over 60 per cent and we will continue to focus our efforts on reducing any delays so that hospital beds can be prioritised for those patients who need that acute level of care,” she added.

This year, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals has been given £1.6 million by the Department of Health to cope with pressures on A&E facilities during cold weather.

Nationally, bed-blocking is up 20 per cent on 2013, with 96,564 bed days lost in October.