Charity's concerns about hospital bed-block crisis

Bed blocking caused mental health patients to spend almost 6,000 extra days stuck in the area’s hospitals.

Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 9:26 am
Updated Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 10:26 am
Some hospital patients are well enough to be discharged but other factors prevent it from happening

A charity today called for more investment in community care, to help vulnerable patients return to their homes safely.

Figures from NHS Digital show the North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust - which covers the Wigan area - lost 5,980 bed days in 2018-19 because of delays discharging mental health patients who were fit to leave hospital – the equivalent of more than 16 years.

Delayed discharges occur when a patient has been cleared to leave hospital but there are problems arranging their next steps. This could include a lack of suitable housing or social care in a patient’s community.

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Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of Sane, said: “The staggering rise in delays reveals how patchy and threadbare care in the community has become. The suicide rate for people being cared for at home is now more than double that of patients in hospital, and there are also too many cases of people neglected and at risk because they have left hospital too early and without the support they need.”

The NHS’s five-year plan for mental health, published in 2016, pledged to reduce delayed discharges and focus on expanding community-based services. But across England, patients spent 273,630 unnecessary days in hospital because of delays in 2018-19: the equivalent of 749 years.

This was lower than the previous year, but still 16 per cent higher than in 2015-16.

According to a report by NHS Providers, long stays in mental health wards can cause successful treatment to reverse, and patients to relapse.

The National Institute for Health and Social Care warns it can lead to crowded wards and overstretched staff, upping the risk of serious incidents and delaying admission of patients with acute needs.

An NHS England spokesman said: “The NHS is treating record numbers of patients for mental health conditions, the vast majority of whom are seen and discharged in a timely manner. Investment in mental health funding will grow faster than the rest of the NHS budget so we can expand care in local areas making it easier to treat patients in the community and out of hospital.”