Bed blocking figures for Northamptonshire are twice as high as national average, new figures show

"Bed blocking", or delayed transfer of care, is when physically-fit patients are kept in hospital due to a non-clinical reason.
"Bed blocking", or delayed transfer of care, is when physically-fit patients are kept in hospital due to a non-clinical reason.

Northamptonshire is one of the worst areas in England for "bed-blocking", a national report has revealed.

In June, the county had double the national daily average for the numbers of patients kept in hospitals and social care sites by "delayed transfer of care" (DTOC).

Northamptonshire also tied for third across England for the number of beds taken up by patients affected by DTOC.

Meanwhile, in May, Northampton General Hospital saw 90 incidents of DTOC - near five times its target of 23 incidents a month.

It comes after fresh figures published by NHS England on August 10 showed a national increase in delays.

Kate Holt, chief executive of Healthwatch Northamptonshire, said: “The emotional cost to the individual, the family, friends and carers is huge. Every day that a person spends in hospital after they are deemed fit for discharge has both a mental and physical effect on them and their families.

"It is distressing for everyone concerned, puts huge pressure on our local hospitals and does not contribute to anyone’s quality of life."

Referred to widely as "bed blocking", DTOC is when a patient who is fit to leave hospital cannot be discharged because of a nonclinical issue, such as having nothing in place for them to be appropriately looked after outside care.

It means ward beds are taken up unnecessarily and pressure is put on hospitals to care for new patients coming in.

The NHS England report points to patients waiting for their medical assessment to be completed as the most common causes of DTOC in Northamptonshire.

In 2016/17, the daily average number of delayed transfers of care per 100,000 people in England was 14.9. For Northamptonshire, this figure was 32.6, more than double the national average.

A paper published by Northampton General Hospital in July also reported "delayed discharge on a near daily basis" in their critical care units.

A spokeswoman for Northampton General Hospital said: “Delays to patients leaving hospital can be hospital related - for example a patient may need to be reviewed by a particular clinician or we may be waiting for diagnostic test results. Others can be related to a need for arrange an appropriate package of care in the community or a residential home.

"We are working hard, both in terms of our own processes and with our health and social care partners, to minimise the length of time our patients remain in hospital once they are medically fit to leave.”

A spokesperson for Nene Clinical Commissioning Group said:

“As a system, we recognise that we have high rates of delayed transfers of care. One of the biggest challenges we face is increasing capacity in our community health and social care services to ensure that clinically-able patients ready to leave hospital are able to return home with the appropriate help and support required.

“However, we are working closely with our partners in health and social care across Northamptonshire, and with NHS teams at a national and regional level, to address this.

“While the underlying trend is an improving one, we are aware that there is still work to be done. By working in close partnership, and pooling our expertise, we are all doing our best to relieve pressure on the urgent care system and ensure patients in Northamptonshire continue to receive the best possible care.”