NHS in grip of worst bed-blocking crisis on record, figures show

The data from NHS England shows a near doubling in the numbers of patients stuck in hospital, for want of care at home, or help to get them discharged.

The figures for June show little let up in pressures during summer, at a time when strain on the NHS traditionally eases.

Overall, 115,425 bed days were lost to delayed discharges in June – almost 80 per cent more than the same month five years ago.

Just 90.5 per cent of patients who went to Accident & Emergency departments were seen within four hours, against a target of 95 per cent  – the worst June figures on record.

Those stuck in A&E included 84 patients who were forced to wait at least 12 hours on a trolley. Until now, the highest figure in June has been 25.

Ambulance response times were also a record low for the time of year, with just 69.2 per cent of the most urgent calls receiving a response within eight minutes, against a target of 75 per cent.

Charities said a funding crisis in social care meant thousands of vulnerable people were being left in hospital, when they should have been cared for in their homes.

Vicky McDermott, chairman of the Care and Support Alliance, which represents 80 charities for the elderly and disabled said: “The Government cannot continue to ignore the crisis that means that patients are stuck in hospital, when they could be at home.

“The funding crisis in social care is heaping needless pressure onto the NHS. A third of bed days lost to delayed discharge are due to social care and the biggest reason for social care delays is ‘patients awaiting a care package in their home.’”

The figures emerged amid warnings from senior managers that A&E departments are struggling to cope.

Earlier this week NHS managers at University Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS trust said they were considering closing an Accident & Emergency (A&E) department at night after reaching “crisis point”.

Grantham and District Hospital is considering plans to restrict A&E hours at Grantham and District Hospital after becoming “seriously affected” by a “national shortage of appropriately trained doctors to work in A&Es”.

The latest figures prompted an attack on the Government’s handling of the NHS – and criticism of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership for “letting the Tories get away with it”.

Labour leadership candidate Owen Smith, said the NHS was “in terminal decline”.

“With Jeremy Hunt in charge hospitals lurch from one crisis to another – and it is patients who are left to suffer. Waits for ambulances are going up, A&E departments are bursting at the seams and cuts to social care have left older people trapped on hospital wards for weeks or even months at a time,” he said.

“This is no way to run the NHS and with a weak opposition we are letting the Tories get away with it,” he added.

NHS England defended the performance, pointing out that June saw the highest number of A&E attendances on record, with a 2.1 per cent increase on last year.

Health officials said some aspects of the performance showed an improvement on previous months.

Matthew Swindells, NHS England’s National Director: Operations and Information, said:   “Our frontline services continue to come under intense pressure but June saw another improvement in performance.  We continue to admit, treat or discharge more than nine out of ten emergency patients within the four-hour target time. Thanks to tremendous efforts by the NHS and social care, the number of delayed transfers of care stopped increasing in June, although there were still a significant number of patients waiting for discharge from hospital.”

In recent days, senior figures have raised concerns about growing levels of rationing across the NHS.

Today health officials in Merseyside announced plans to withdraw one of the most controversial proposals – the suspension of all non-urgent surgery for months.

The plans from St Helens clinical commissioning group, revealed in the Telegraph, had provoked a public outcry.

Local authorities are being given access to £3.5 billion extra a year for adult social care, in a bid to tackle bedblocking, officials say.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The NHS had its busiest June ever, but hospitals are performing well with nine out of ten people seen in A&E within four hours – almost 60,000 people per day seen within the standard.

“We are committed to delivering a safer seven day NHS which is why we have invested £10bn to fund the NHS’s own plan to transform services in the future,” he said.