Analysis of NHS statistics by the GMB union has found that bed blocking in English hospitals has increased by 26% between 2011 and 2015.
For England as a whole bed-blocking has increased from 1.4 million days in 2011 to over 1.7 million days last year.
The trade union says that cuts in local authorities’ social services provision, and particularly the difficulty of finding places in care homes, is the biggest cause of the rise.
In 2015 NHS patients in England who were ready to be discharged but were kept in hospital due to delays in providing alternative care were delayed by 1,746,973 days. This was an increase of 364,921 days compared with 1,382,052 days in 2011.
The key reasons for delaying the discharge of patients from hospitals in 2015 were sorting out a place in a care home (27.7%), delays in arranging further NHS care (19.1%), sorting out care at a patient’s home (19.1%), interagency delays (17.4%), delays due to patient or family choice about future care (12.7%) and other reasons (4.1%).
Justin Bowden, GMB national officer, blamed government cuts for the rising problem. “Bed-blocking, which is a millstone around the neck of the NHS, has got considerably worse since the Tories took control of the nation’s finances,” he concludes.
The North East was the only region in England to see a reduction in delayed discharges. The North West and South East saw the greatest increases.
“Councils have had to shunt the problem to the NHS. Councils have not been able to accept the patients from the NHS because they have been starved of funds,” says Bowden.