25% more patients forced to remain in hospital beds

New figures from the Department of Health show that the total number of days patients have been delayed in hospital has increased by 10 per cent in the last month.

The problem – often referred to as “bed blocking” – has increased 29 per cent when compared with figures from August 2010. Patients are frequently delayed in hospital and cannot be discharged until suitable care has been arranged, either in a nursing home or in their own home, to aid their recovery.

Councils have faced significant cuts to their budgets and experts have previously warned there would be a knock-on effect on the NHS. However, patients can also be delayed because they need to be transferred to other hospitals.

The figures show there were 71,450 delayed days in hospitals in March, up from 64,590 in February 2012 and 55,330 in August 2010. However, officials said it was not fair to compare summer figures with statistics from the winter period, when hospitals and councils are busier.

The cost of the delays to the taxpayer has now reached more than £18.5 million a month – around £600,000 every day. The total bill for delayed discharges since August 2010 is £324 million.

Labour’s Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, Liz Kendall, said: “More than £1.3 billion has been cut from older people’s social care since the Government came to power. But cutting vital services and support for older people ends up costing us all more.”

The Health Minister Simon Burns said: “No one should stay in hospital longer than they need to.

“We know that there is always room for improvement when the NHS faces challenges from an ageing population and rising costs of new treatments.”

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