More than 100 'bed blockers' at Wigan's hospitals every day on average

More than 100 patients fit to be discharged were taking up beds at Wigan’s hospitals every day on average in October, new figures show.

It comes after the average number of delayed discharges in England reached a new high last month.

The Department for Health and Social Care recently announced that an additional £500m would be spent on speeding up the release of patients from hospital – but health think tank the King's Fund said this is not sufficient to deal with the problem.

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Wigan Infirmary

NHS England figures show an average of 117 beds per day were occupied by people ready to be discharged from Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in October – up from 106 the month before.

Across the country, the average number of occupied beds has risen consistently since the summer, from 11,590 per day in June to 13,305 in September and 13,613 last month, the highest monthly figure since comparable data began in December 2021.

David Maguire, senior analyst at the King's Fund, said the problem is "another chapter in an ongoing story" as the NHS continues to deal with post-coronavirus pandemic pressures and stretched budgets.

Mr Maguire said: "It’s not crept up on anyone and is a continuation of the pressures we have seen on social care over several years.

"The sector is hitting a tipping point."

He explained that social care services have been cut due to reduced funding for local authorities, meaning many patients are waiting in hospitals for adequate care packages to be installed, such as home adaptations, places in care homes or community health support.

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The difficulty of recruiting and retaining staff in the adult social care sector was also raised as a key issue.

Nationally, just 40 per cent of hospital patients were discharged when they were ready in October.

In Wigan, this fell to 17 per cent – in line with September.

Mary Fleming, WWL’s deputy chief executive officer, and Melissa Maguiness, delivery director for Healthier Wigan Partnership, said in a joint statement: “WWL continues to work together with our partners throughout the Healthier Wigan Partnership to improve patient flow and discharge performance.

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“Despite the current pressures facing both the acute and social care sectors, the trust is tackling this issue in a number of different ways by integrating care and reducing hospital admissions where appropriate. Examples of this include our integrated discharge team, with health and social care staff who start to plan for safe discharges as soon a patient is admitted, and the virtual ward which provides care and support for patients in their own home.

“If your loved one is in hospital and is identified as medically fit to be discharged, we ask that you work with us to facilitate their discharge at the earliest opportunity.”

Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, the membership organisation for NHS trusts, said: "Nobody in the NHS wants people to be kept waiting but pressure on social care and community services means that hospitals struggle to discharge people who’re well enough to leave.

"To ease pressure on the NHS, the Government must act now to fix chronic staff shortages and an underfunded social care system."