Spiralling ‘bed blocking’ toll is costing Leeds £500,000 a month

Leeds General Infirmary. Picture by Lynne Cameron/ PA Wire.
Leeds General Infirmary. Picture by Lynne Cameron/ PA Wire.
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Four hospital wards worth of beds are currently filled with stranded Leeds patients who are fit enough to go home – costing the taxpayer over £500,000 a month.

The YEP can reveal 92 Leeds hospital beds were taken up by the ‘delayed transfer of care’ of patients, otherwise known as bed blocking, on Wednesday alone as the rising monthly toll heads towards 3,000.

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The phenomenon, where the discharge of patients is delayed due to issues like waiting for care home places, further NHS care or assessments, threatens to derail plans to meet the demands of increased pressure on the system over winter.

The latest figures released by NHS England show that in July, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTH) recorded the second highest rate of delayed discharge in the country at 2,682 while LTH board papers reveal the rise continued in August.

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Regulator the NHS Trust Development Authority has placed LTH under “increased scrutiny” over the issue, which is occupying up to five per cent of the city’s 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.

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 £9.1million 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 of hospital beds and 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 has been told to save an extra £5.5m this year, on top of current plans to save £67m.

MANY REASONS BEHIND DELAYS

Waiting for care home places, patient choice, further NHS care or assessments are four of the main reasons behind delayed discharge.

Last year more than 1.6million hospital ‘bed days’, in which a hospital bed was occupied by a patient well enough to be transferred elsewhere, were lost nationally.

The toll was 15 per cent up on the previous year and is continuing to rise this year. Many put bed blocking down to cuts to the NHS, council adult social care budgets and an ageing population.

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