According to new figures reported by the Daily Telegraph, almost three quarters of hospitals in England have had patients wait for more than 100 days to be discharged, even though they were medically fit to leave.
The data has been gathered from information obtained under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. FOI requests were sent to 122 hospital trusts in England about their longest delayed discharges over the last three years, and 62 of those asked provided information.
The figures are believed to suggest that the delays have been caused by a lack of home care, nursing home places and support for stroke patients. Separate figures from councils also show elderly people are waiting more than a year to receive the care they need in the community.
Charity director at Age UK, Caroline Abrahams said: "These new figures paint a deeply worrying picture of a social care system being engulfed by a galloping crisis and, of course, it is older people and their families who are paying the price.”
Lucie Prothero, a senior associate in Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team who specialises in elderly care cases, comments: “This data resonates with our experience of hearing from many older clients and their families about lengthy stays on hospital wards or inadequate care in the community, sometimes resulting in poor outcomes. Older people may find that lengthy hospital stays can have a damaging impact on their levels of independence and scope to return to community living in a safe manner. Once they are discharged home, having an inadequate level of support puts them at risk of things like malnutrition, falls and pressure sores.
“It is widely reported that the population is ageing, which places a greater burden on our health and social care systems. We are seeing a rise in the number of enquiries regarding poor standards of medical, nursing and community social care, particularly amongst the elderly. In many instances, a lack of resources and time appears to be a significant factor which can result in devastating outcomes. A situation where older patients are subjected to long hospital stays which might be avoided with adequate social care provision only increases the pressure on our NHS services and risks the safety of patients with acute medical needs that are best served in the hospital setting.”