NHS hospitals in England are seeing record numbers of medically-fit patients unable to be discharged
NHS hospitals in England are continuing to see near-record numbers of medically-fit patients unable to be discharged, though ambulance handover delays outside A&Es have improved, figures show.
An average of 14,036 beds last week were taken up by patients who were fit to leave, down slightly from an all-time high of 14,069 the previous week.
At this point last year, the number stood at 12,498.
Just 41% of patients ready to leave hospital last week were actually discharged, with the proportion dropping as low as 30% in north west England and 33% in south west England.
Hospitals have faced a growing struggle in recent months 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 transferred to A&E teams.
However, here are signs that handover delays may be improving.
A total of 23% of ambulance patients in England waited at least 30 minutes last week to be handed to A&E teams, down from 36% the previous week and the lowest level so far this winter.
The figure hit a record 44% in the week between Christmas and new year.
Some 9% of patients waited more than an hour last week to be handed over to A&E teams – again, the lowest this winter and down from 19% the previous week.
There were 7% waiting over an hour at this point last year and 18% waiting at least half an hour.
Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive at NHS Providers, the membership organisation for NHS trusts in England, warned that urgent and emergency care services are under “alarming levels of stress”.
She continued: “Bed occupancy remains very high with nearly 19 in 20 beds occupied in general and acute wards. Staff are incredibly concerned that this could impact patient care as those levels are far above what’s safe. More beds are desperately needed.
“This problem is compounded by the fact that every day, more than 14,000 medically fit patients cannot leave hospital, given a need to invest more in capacity in social care and community services.
“The £250m announced by the Government to free up beds is welcome given the urgent need to ease pressures, but this needs to reach the frontline without delay.”
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director for England, acknowledged the figures show the NHS remains under “significant pressure” with “near-record highs of people in hospital who are medically fit to leave”.