More than nine in 10 medically fit patients stuck in hospital beds in some areas

More than nine out of 10 people in some parts of England are stuck in hospital beds despite being fit to leave, new analysis shows.

Levels are particularly high in areas of the North West, where some trusts have as many as 95% of patients still in beds who no longer need to be there.

An average of 22,586 people per day across England were ready to leave hospital last week, of which 9,228 (41%) were discharged while 13,358 (59%) stayed in their beds, according to analysis of NHS data by the PA news agency.

There are sharp regional differences across the country, with half of patients in London and eastern England discharged when they were ready, compared with only 28% in north-west England and 35% in south-west England.

The figure for south-east England was 39%, with 43% for north-east England/Yorkshire and 44% for the Midlands.

The trusts with the lowest rate of discharges are all in the North West.

Southport & Ormskirk Trust had an average of 71 patients per day last week fit to leave hospital, of which 67 (95%) remained in their beds – a discharge rate of just 5%.

Liverpool University Hospitals, Stockport Foundation Trust and Warrington & Halton Teaching Hospitals all had discharge rates of only 6%, while the Northern Care Alliance in Greater Manchester had 9%.

Outside north-west England, trusts with very low rates of discharging fit patients last week included Ashford & St Peter’s Hospitals in Surrey (10%); Worcestershire Acute Hospitals (11%); Doncaster & Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals (13%); Frimley Health Foundation, which operates across several counties in southern England (14%); and the Isle of Wight (16%).

Hospitals are facing a growing struggle to discharge people who are well enough to leave, often because there is not enough support in place from local providers of social care.

Delays in freeing up beds have a knock-on effect for admissions, leading to many patients being kept waiting in ambulances before being handed over to A&E teams.

HEALTH NHS Ambulances
(PA Graphics)

Chris Hopson, chief strategy officer at NHS England, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday morning that some of the issues around discharge are to do with the NHS, such as providing rehabilitation services.

But he said “fundamentally” the pressures on social care are driving the lack of discharges.

He said: “We would like to reduce it to significantly lower numbers. We’re looking at the numbers that we had before we went into the pandemic – (they) were in the sort of eight, nine, 10 thousands – we would like to do better than that.”