NHS discharge wait 'blocking beds'
Increasing delays in discharging patients from hospital is causing record levels of "bed-blocking" in England as the NHS approaches its busiest season, official data has revealed.
Predominately older patients are being kept on hospital wards, taking up precious beds, unnecessarily because of hold-ups in transferring them to other services, including care homes.
Figures for October released by NHS England today said 96,564 "bed days" were wasted on patients who should have been discharged.
Overdue patient assessments, long waits for social care arrangements and funding disputes are behind some of the delays.
The number of days lost to "bed-blockers" has been increasing since the summer leading to new records in August and September.
It represents a rise of around 20% compared to October 2013 and 35% compared to 2012.
Andy Burnham, Labour's shadow health secretary, said it was a "sorry state of affairs" that older people awaiting social housing or care in the community were being" trapped" in hospital.
He said: "It is truly sad that record numbers of older people are trapped in hospital when they are well enough to be at home.
"This sorry state of affairs is a direct result of David Cameron's decision to take home care away from hundreds of thousands of older people. It is a false economy that is piling pressure on hospitals and is a root cause of the A&E crisis.
"David Cameron needs to intervene urgently to prevent the collapse of social care services in England."
"Bed-blocking" in October is believed to have cost the NHS around £25 million, Labour added.
The figures were released as the NHS prepares for the extra pressure on accident and emergency departments that winter brings.
Emergency admissions in English hospitals in the second week of November were the highest on record, putting an increasing burden on bed capacity.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "We've given the NHS an extra £700 million to buy thousands more doctors, nurses and beds this winter.
"NHS England has ensured there are plans in every area to manage the extra demand."
Compared with four years ago, t he NHS is seeing 16,000 more hospital outpatients, performing 10,000 more diagnostic tests and carrying out 2,000 more operations every day, w hile every year around 1.3 million more people visit accident and emergency departments.