Discharge delays are costing NHS millions

By Ian Dipple Sunday 02 February 2014 Updated: 04/02 21:01

MILLIONS of pounds a year are being wasted by the county's NHS because of delays transferring patients out of hospital when they no longer need treatment.

Analysis of figures released by NHS England show in the last three years more than £6.3million has been lost because of an inability to move patients out of hospital once they no longer need specialist care to a more appropriate place.

Between April and November Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust lost some 7,954 bed days. At £260 for every delayed bed day, the cost to the NHS is estimated at over £2million.

Despite efforts to improve the situation by joining up health and social care, the number of delayed days has risen compared with the same period during 2012, with an extra 634 days lost.

Recent research has revealed up to 140 people are sitting within the county's hospitals at any one time waiting to be discharged - the equivalent of about seven wards. The issue not only impacts on those patients directly affected but those who have their operation cancelled because there are no beds.

John Burbeck, deputy chairman of WAHT told a board meeting this week it was a 'lose lose' situation for patients.

Worcestershire's Well Connected programme is the driver for joining up health and social care services and from 2015 there will be about £38million to spend on the project but it is not new money, but funds transferred from elsewhere in the system.

Concerns have already been raised about the impact that will have when coupled with the planned £32million worth of cuts to adult social care by Worcestershire County Council.

As part of the project plans are in place to enhance the role of community hospitals, investment has been made into community health services while social workers will continue to be present within both to ensure assessments can be made as quickly as possible. There will also be a greater role for the voluntary sector in supporting the elderly.

Dr Bernie Gregory, clinical lead for Worcestershire’s Well Connected programme, said: "There is a huge amount of work being done to address these challenges, with all organisations working together in a way that has never happened before - but we have to work even harder and faster to fit these pieces together more effectively."

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