Hospitals in Yorkshire are footing a spiralling £2.5million bill every month on beds for patients who are fit enough to go home.
More than 13,000 days in which the discharge of patients unnecessarily occupying hospital beds was delayed were clocked up in Yorkshire in the month of July alone according to NHS England.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTH) recorded the second highest rate of delayed discharges during July, at 2,682, while trust board papers have revealed the rising monthly toll approached 3,000 in August.
Elsewhere in July, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust (1,724), Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (1,618), Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (1,404) and York Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (1,149) all recorded four-figure totals for delays, also known as ‘bed blocking’.
It is feared bed blocking, where the discharge of patients is delayed due to issues like waiting for care home places, further NHS care or assessments, could derail plans to meet the demands of increased pressure on the system over winter.
Regulator the NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA) has placed LTH under “increased scrutiny” over the issue, which is occupying up to five per cent of Leeds’ acute beds every day.
Julian Hartley, LTH chief executive, told the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board that fortnightly meetings between Leeds health bosses are taking place to tackle “the biggest challenge” facing the NHS in Leeds.
Revealing that 92 Leeds patients had their transfer delayed on Wednesday alone, he said: “We need to be at or below 50 (delayed transfers a day) if we have a chance of making the system move effectively and we hope to do that within four weeks. This is going to test us as far as the winter’s concerned and it will rely on us stepping up in the face of pressure. It all comes back to that figure I eluded to of 92 – that’s the equivalent of four wards worth of patients.”
Mr Hartley added that bed shortages last winter caused the trust to cancel several operations.
A System Resilience Group made up of Leeds NHS chiefs, aimed at planning services to deal with increased pressures, has already spent £9.1m in preparation for winter – £4m more than planned. Initiatives include funding extra Community Intermediate Care beds to move patients whose transfer has been delayed out into the community.
Nigel Gray, NHS Leeds North Clinical Commissioning Group chief officer, said: “The system is still running under increased pressure and in some areas winter has not yet stopped.”
The news comes after we revealed LTH was told to save an extra £5.5m this year, on top of current plans to save £67m, as trusts with large deficits were targeted by the TDA to reduce costs.
Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff, a member of the Health Select Committee, believes if urgent action is not taken the rising cost of the delayed transfer of patients will result in crisis.
Ms Sherriff said: “This could have a huge knock-on effect – I’m quite worried about winter pressures. We know we are already using significant numbers of agency nurses, we don’t have the continuity among staff and junior doctors are balloting about strike action.”
She added: “This winter could be a very testing time – the Government needs to act.”
The financial cost of July’s delayed days in Yorkshire was at least £2.5m, based on LTH’s average cost of a bed day at £195, but is likely to be much higher as the Department of Health say an average bed costs £275 per day.
Michael Harper, of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said it has “established systems in place to continue to focus our efforts on further reducing this number, particularly ahead of winter.”
A spokeswoman for York Teaching Hospitals said it is working with partners to tackle the issue as “no patient should experience unnecessary delays”.
Mid Yorkshire Hospitals and Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust were unavailable for comment.