Belfast Telegraph

Lisa Smyth: Lack of resources means bed-blocking will continue

Lisa Smyth

By Lisa Smyth

The problem of delayed discharges from hospital is nothing new.

They can happen for a variety of reasons - patients deemed fit enough to go home can frequently wait all day just for a discharge letter or for the pharmacy to send their medication to the ward.

And while this is frustrating and certainly does add to the issue of bed-blocking, a shortage of community care packages and places in nursing homes is by far the biggest reason for delayed discharges.

Bed-blocking, as it is known, is a major issue in the health service and is a symptom of chronic underfunding and a depressing lack of workforce planning by health officials.

The fact is, there aren't enough staff to deliver community care packages.

So, while a person no longer needs hospital treatment, they may require assistance to live at home.

As long as that isn't available, they will remain in hospital.

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Or it may be that they need to go to a residential care home. However, the sad reality is there aren't enough places to cater to demand, meaning many people go on a waiting list with no idea when they will leave hospital.

But bed-blocking affects more than just the people waiting to be discharged - it also affects the people waiting for treatment.

According to most recent Government figures, 2,835 people waited longer than 12 hours on emergency department trolleys for a bed to become available in a ward in June this year.

This was more than double the 1,365 12-hour breaches in June last year.

Then, of course, operations are cancelled, or take years to schedule, because of the fight to find a bed.

And while patients with painful and debilitating conditions have to wait years for treatment, they end up making repeated visits to GP surgeries, out-of-hours GP services and emergency departments.

The simple solution would be more money for community services. But there are so many services in dire need of additional funding.

Nurses are threatening to strike over pay and conditions, waiting times are spiralling out of control, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service is on its knees - each one is equally as deserving as the other.

But with finite resources available, it's going to be a tough call for those who hold the purse-strings.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph