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Equivalent of more than seven years spent waiting for hospital discharges in just one month

Blurred figures of people with medical uniforms in hospital corridor. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/VILevi

Blurred figures of people with medical uniforms in hospital corridor. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/VILevi

VILevi

Patients spent the equivalent of more than seven years waiting to be discharged from hospitals across Norfolk’s healthcare providers in just one month.

File photo of a ward in a hospital. . Photo: Peter Byrne/PA WireFile photo of a ward in a hospital. . Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

New figures showed there were on average as many as 26 beds occupied a day by patients who no longer need to stay in hospital at the county’s flagship hospital, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).

And at all trusts hold ups were caused mostly by delays in the NHS, rather than social care which has long been blamed for patients not moving out of hospital quicker.

In May, the latest month for which figures are available, patients spent a total of 2,596 days waiting to be discharged or transferred to a different care facility - equivalent to more than seven years of waiting time.

The lowest number of beds blocked daily, on average, was seen at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust, which stretches over the two counties and looks after mental health patients.

While the figures at the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston saw 12 beds blocked, Norfolk Community Health and Care (NCHC) had 17 blocked, and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King’s Lynn had 18 beds unnecessarily occupied on a daily basis.

Bed blocking, officially known as a delayed transfer of care, happens when a patient remains in a bed after being officially declared ready for transfer.

They 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.

At two hospitals the vast majority of cases were caused by delays in the NHS - 95pc at QEH and 100pc at JPUH.

And elsewhere NHS delays were still the most common cause of set backs.

Reasons behind bed blocking can range from waiting for an assessment to be completed, to the correct equipment not being installed in a person’s home, or family choice.

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

Across England, an average of nearly 4,500 beds a day were blocked in May, representing roughly 3.8pc of all occupied beds. The government target is 3.5pc.

This resulted in a total of 139,204 delayed days, equivalent to just under 400 years of lost time.

A spokesman for the QEH said the trust was working with borough council housing officers to speed up discharge and also had a pilot scheme in place to see assessments for discharge brought forward.

At the NNUH, a team was set up in 2016 to improve the process. A spokesman said: “The team has forged better relationships with community providers and significantly improved the discharge experience, speed of discharge and recovery times for patients. NNUH is also the first trust in the country to work in partnership with local district councils to establish District Direct to provide housing and district council services for patients before they leave hospital. “

Graham Wilde, chief operating officer at JPUH, added: “When you take into account the number of patients admitted during the course of a month and the number of beds we have – over 400 – these figures are comparatively low. Inevitably there will be times where there will be some delay but the team at the Paget are focussed on doing everything they can for the benefit of our patients. This includes ensuring no one stays in the hospital longer than they need to.”

Debbie White, NSFT director of operations in Norfolk and Waveney, said significant progress had been made.

She said: “Figures from NHS England show that in May our service users spent a total of 339 days waiting to be discharged or transferred to a different care facility, compared with 823 days in May 2017.

“In May this year, 56 of those days were the result of NHS issues compared to 412 days 12 months earlier. The 56 figure is also the lowest monthly total so far for 2018.

“The main reason for NHS issues causing delays is when we have to wait for a bed to become available at units for specialist services, such as for people with a personality disorder, which are not provided by this trust.”

James Bullion, executive director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council, said: “It is really important that people do not spend longer in hospital than is necessary. This is something which both NHS and social care need to tackle together, and that’s why we staged an event with key partners this week, to discuss the issue and agree a way forward.

“We need to take prevention seriously and increase our focus in this area, working around GPs on people at risk of going into hospital, for example because of falls.”

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