Massive ‘bed blocking’ toll cut by almost a third in Leeds as hospitals battle winter demand

Leeds General Infirmary in Great George Street, Leeds.

Leeds General Infirmary in Great George Street, Leeds.

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The crippling issue of so-called ‘bed blocking’ in hospitals in Leeds is finally being tackled as NHS bosses have made some headway amid major winter pressures.

For the first time in months Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTH) has seen a reduction in the number of delayed transfers of care, also known as bed blocking, when patients are fit enough to leave but remain in acute hospital beds due to issues like delays in finding care home places.

The incidence, which is known to make backlogs in A&E worse due to a lack of beds, was reduced by almost a third since October from more than 3,000 delayed days to around 2,200 in December – still among the highest tolls in England.

The biggest causes of delays remain waits for further non-acute NHS care like rehabilitation and for care home places.

Nevertheless the trust was shown to be failing to hit the national standard of reaching 95 per cent of A&E patients within four hours of attendance amid winter pressures last month.

Overall LTH reached just over 90 per cent of emergency patients within the target time, with St James’s Hospital faring significantly worse (less than 84 per cent) than Leeds General Infirmary (94 per cent) partly due to its older people’s wards.

Despite the progress, a report to the trust’s board warned “the concern is that if attendance and admission rates continue at this level, our current winter plan and associated beds may be insufficient to cope”.

Bed blocking was at one point believed to be wasting around £20,000 of LTH funds a day on care for patients fit enough to leave. October’s statistics equated to around 100 beds being unnecessarily filled every day.

The rising toll of the problem saw the trust embark on a six-week crackdown last autumn to halve the number of delayed days, which failed dramatically – with figures actually rising.

Trust chiefs said the actions needed were “more complex than first thought” but progress appears to have been made.

The LTH board report details that in places its “current winter plan is working”. The plan includes opening extra community beds and creating extra capacity on children’s wards.