Hundreds of bed days a month lost to blocking at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust

NHS England figures have revealed the rate of "bed blocking" at health trusts.
NHS England figures have revealed the rate of "bed blocking" at health trusts.

Patients block 11 beds a day at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s hospitals, NHS England figures show.

In October last year, patients at the trust spent a total of 342 days waiting to be discharged or transferred to a different care facility.

That’s equivalent to nearly a year of waiting time.

The figures show that 97% of these delays were caused by problems with the NHS, like waiting for a bed to open up in a rehabilitation centre or mental health hospital.

The remainder were caused by problems with social care, such as delays in setting up community care or special equipment at home.

A delayed transfer of care occurs when a patient remains in a bed after being officially declared safe for transfer by both a doctor and a multidisciplinary team, which could include social or mental health care workers.

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

Independent healthcare charity the King’s Fund has said that the process is sometimes lengthy, and there could be many more people who were safe to leave hospital but had not been officially signed off.

Delayed transfers of care 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.

Across England, an average of 4,737 beds a day were blocked in October, representing roughly 4.3% of all occupied beds. The Government’s target is 3.5%.

This resulted in a total of 146,861 delayed days, equivalent to just over 400 years of lost time.

The national rate peaked in February 2017 at a rate of 6,660 beds per day, but has decreased fairly steadily over the past year.

A report on delivering care for older people released this year by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) highlighted concerns about Government targets for delayed transfers of care.

The report, Beyond Barriers, cautioned that trusts focusing on trying to hit government targets might end up delivering lower quality care as a result.

The CQC said that it is recommending a more joined-up approach to health and social care, and performance measures for the care of elderly people.

A CQC spokesperson said: “As our report highlights, there is too much ineffective co-ordination of local health and care services – leading to fragmented care for older people.

“Our measures would reflect the contribution of all health and care organisations, rather than relying primarily on information collected by acute hospitals.”

A spokesperson for the NHS said: “A growing proportion of people are getting same day emergency care which prevents the need for an overnight stay.

“Hospitals also have freed up an additional 742 beds, by working closely with councils to help more people return home with the right care in place.”

A spokeswoman for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust said: “Patient safety is our utmost priority and we are continuously working with partner organisations to improve the discharge process.

“We have already put initiatives in place to support this, including a specialist team who work closely with patients and care providers to help patients get home safer, sooner.”