Transfer delays hold up beds

Delays can hold up patient discharge or transfers.
Delays can hold up patient discharge or transfers.

On an average day at the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, four beds are occupied by patients who no longer need to stay in hospital, according to figures from NHS England.

In May, the latest month for which figures are available, patients at the trust spent a total of more than 110 days waiting to be discharged or transferred to a different care facility.

The figures show that 57% of these delays were caused by problems with social care and 43% by problems with the NHS.

A delayed transfer of care occurs when a patient remains in a bed after being officially declared ready for transfer.

Patients must be safe to transfer and signed off by both a doctor and a multidisciplinary team, which could include social or mental heath care workers, before they are classified in this way.

Delayed transfers of care can occur for a variety of reasons, including bed shortages at residential or nursing homes and delays in setting up home care.

Across England, an average of nearly 4,500 beds a day were blocked in May, representing roughly 3.8% of all occupied beds. The government target is 3.5%. This resulted in a total of 139,204 delayed days, equivalent to just under 400 years of lost time.

Dr Colin Doig, medical director at the Trust, said: “We fully understand the importance of our patients being able to be discharged from hospital as soon as they are medically fit and we are committed to working with our partners to ensure this takes place in a safe and timely manner for as many of our patients as possible.

“Nationally, we’re seen as one of the top organisations for this thanks to our close working relationship with our local authority partners and our fully-integrated approach to managing patients’ every care need.

“Additionally, delivering adult social care services across Northumberland alongside hospital and community-based care ensures that when patients are ready to be discharged from hospital they can do so much more seamlessly.

“While we may be ahead of other parts of the country in this area and many of the reasons for delayed transfers of care are outwith our control, we remain focused on doing all we can to enable our patients to leave hospital as soon as they can.”