Bed-blockers: Medically-fit patients to be discharged within 24 hours from NHS hospitals under plan

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Medically-fit patients may be discharged within 24 hours under NHS plans to tackle bed-blocking.

More than 13,000 hospital beds across the country — one in seven — are currently occupied by patients declared well enough to go home. Some have spent up to nine months on wards.

The years-old crisis, thought to cost taxpayers £2billion every year, has a knock-on effect on ambulance response times and restricts capacity to perform other operations.

A new ‘community recovery service’ will aim to give patients ‘step down care’ within a day of being deemed ready to leave hospital.

The NHS's bedblocking crisis has exploded since the pandemic with the levels of delayed discharge around triple the comparable figures before the pandemic

The NHS’s bedblocking crisis has exploded since the pandemic with the levels of delayed discharge around triple the comparable figures before the pandemic

Some of the trusts with the biggest bedblocking problem, like North Bristol had almost one in three beds taken up by patients which were medically fit to be discharged

Some of the trusts with the biggest bedblocking problem, like North Bristol had almost one in three beds taken up by patients which were medically fit to be discharged

Health Secretary Therese Coffey has already vowed to end the scandal, which has soared to record levels and is thought to cost taxpayers roughly £2billion-a-year

Health Secretary Therese Coffey has already vowed to end the scandal, which has soared to record levels and is thought to cost taxpayers roughly £2billion-a-year

A THIRD of NHS capacity is taken up by bed-blockers at busiest trusts 

Up to a third of beds at England’s busiest NHS trusts are occupied by patients who shouldn’t be there, according to a startling MailOnline analysis that lays bare the scale of the country’s ‘devastating’ bed-blocking jam.

More than 13,000 hospital beds across the country, or one in seven, are currently filled with patients declared fit for discharge by doctors.

But rates soar to as high as one in three at the worst-hit hospitals, found in Bristol and Coventry as well as parts of Lancashire and Norfolk. 

NHS data show that between August 2010 and February 2020 — the month before Covid kicked off, an average of 4,580 beds a day were blocked by so-called ‘delayed discharges’. 

Even before the pandemic, the situation prompted warnings that the knock-on effects, including having to cancel operations due to a lack of space, were killing thousands every year. 

Now official NHS figures analysed by MailOnline show how the scale of the crisis has drastically worsened during the pandemic.

August just gone was the worst month ever, with an average of 13,000 beds blocked every day in England.

The plans, laid out at an NHS England webinar last month, may be introduced within five years, according to the Health Service Journal. 

Officials did not specify whether the patients would also be discharged once placed on the step down service. 

But the 24-hour target, if implemented, would aim to speed up the overall process of discharging — even if that itself was not done in a day.

Nor did they say exactly where the patients would go, whether that be to their nursing homes or even hotels — an idea trialed by hospitals over the past few years.

Health chiefs hinted they might be sent to their own homes, which could see the virtual wards scheme expanded. 

Virtual wards are already being expanded to free up hospital capacity and avoid a winter crisis this year.

Health bosses want to create the ‘equivalent of 7,000 more beds’ within the next four months with 2,500 of them coming in the form of ‘virtual wards’.

This involve using mobile apps and and gadgets that can check oxygen and blood pressure remotely.

An NHS spokesman said: ‘The proposal for a community recovery service is in its initial stages and is being developed in conjunction with key partners.

‘We are exploring how to enable more patients to leave hospital and receive the care and treatment they need closer to home, ideally in their own home, to boost recovery times and increase capacity in hospitals. 

‘NHS England will be further testing and evaluating this proposal over the next 12 months.’

The bed-blocking scandal is being driven by a separate crisis in social care.

It has seen medically-fit patients languish on wards for up to nine months because there is no suitable care available for them in the community. 

Patients often need assistance with basic daily tasks such as washing, cooking and dressing.

Health Secretary Therese Coffey has already vowed to end the bed-blocking crisis.

Last month she pledged to give the social care sector £500m of emergency funds.

Providers will be encouraged to use the war chest to help plug tens of thousands of vacancies, given a shortage of workers is central to the crisis.

Staff may be offered bonuses, pay rises or more generous overtime to prevent more leaving for better paid jobs in retail. 

There will also be a drive to attract more workers from abroad, with £15m to cover areas like visa applications and accommodation.

NHS data show that between August 2010 and February 2020 — the month before Covid kicked off, an average of 4,580 beds a day were blocked by so-called ‘delayed discharges’.

Even before the pandemic, the situation prompted warnings that the knock-on effects, including having to cancel operations due to a lack of space, were killing thousands every year.

But the crisis worsened during the pandemic, with August 2022 the worst month on record, with an average of 13,000 beds blocked every day in England.

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