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Bed-blocking up by 26% in England since 2011

Cuts to social services major contributory factor, says GMB union

Caroline White

Monday, 15 February 2016

The number of days lost to bed-blocking rose by 26% in English hospitals between 2011 and 2015, finds an analysis of existing data, published by health sector union, the GMB.

The severe cuts to local authority budgets, which have eaten into social care provision are a major contributory factor, says the union.

The GMB analysed and ranked data, published by NHS England on delayed transfer of care for all nine regions of the country.

In 2015, NHS patients in England who were medically fit to be discharged but were kept in hospital due to delays in providing alternative care accounted for 1,746,973 bed days—an increase of 364,921 days on the 1,382,052 days attributed to delayed discharge in 2011—equal to a rise of 26%.

The main reasons behind the delays were: sorting out a place in a care home, including assessments (27.7%); arranging further NHS care (19.1%); arranging care at a patient’s home (19.1%), interagency delays (17.4%), patient or family choices about future care (12.7%) and other reasons, including disputes (4.1%). 

A breakdown of the nine regions of England shows an increase of 73,734 days to 334,959 in 2015 for the South East. In the North West, bed-blocking days rose by 68,697 days to 207,367. In London, bed-blocking days rose by 35,306 to 167,725.

The North East was the only region where the number of days lost to bed-blocking decreased. In 2015, these fell 16,628 to 42,983.

There are no figures available for the total number of patients whose discharges were delayed. The NHS counts the number of patients in hospital whose discharge is delayed on one day at the end of each month, to provide a snapshot. For those 12 days in 2015 the total was 60,501 patients.

Justin Bowden, GMB National Officer, described bed-blocking as “a millstone around the neck of the NHS.”

“For England as a whole bed-blocking has increased from 1.4 million days in 2011 to over 1.7 million days last year,” he said, adding: “The severe cuts in local authorities’ social services provision is the major contributory factor for [it] getting worse.” 

He insisted: “Councils have had to shunt the problem to the NHS. Councils have not been able to accept the patients from the NHS because they have been starved of funds."

The tables below show the differences across the nine regions and the 20 areas with the largest rises in bed-blocking days.


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