An increasing number of “bed-blocking” poses threat to UK hospitals due to lack of residential care
Updated: Apr 12, 2019
It has been revealed that within the last year, a total of 29,374 beds were ‘blocked’ in UK hospitals due to a lack of capacity in nursing homes or residential care homes. The term “bed-blocking” is essentially delayed discharges, as one patient in remaining their designated bed occupies the space for another patient who may desperately need that spot.
Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the NHS Trusts revealed that 11% of these incidents were due to the wait for nursing home placements and 7% for care home placements. In other cases, “bed blocking” is caused by the NHS not completing necessary paperwork or the local authority inability to organize the next stage of resident’s care. This strikingly high number of blocked beds hurts hospital finances and lives of waiting patients. Cera Care, a technology-enabled home care company, said that “One of the key reasons that many beds are blocked in hospitals is down to a lack of capacity in nursing homes or residential care homes. Often it is also done at the family’s request as they might not have the resources to look after their loved one at home.” This also calls into question if families are struggling to allocate funds to pay care home fees or costs. Therefore, further delaying the discharge of their loved ones. Many professionals at Cera Care suggest the idea of home care, which allows that person to continue living at home and still maintain a sense of independence. This option waives any care home costs; however, they still need to pay for a private nurse which may incur a higher fee. Home care ensures treatment by a highly-professional carer with a unique plan designed for every specific care need. Even though this may seem like a great solution, another 10% of the bed blocking incidents are caused because of the wait for care packages at home. In early February, Age UK revealed that 54,025 older people have died whilst waiting for a care package. This was revealed since Philip Hammond announced the government’s intention for social care green paper in the Spring Budget in 2017. The NHS is under a financial burden as a result of high delayed discharge rates. This crisis costs them £3billion per year. The cost per day of a delayed discharge or bed blocking varies depending on location but averages around £325. Data showed that the highest number of delayed discharges was seen in Plymouth, Leeds, Walsall, Bury, and Stockton-on-Tees. Even though this seems like an unsolvable problem, it is important that nursing homes in the UK take this into their own hands. They need to create space for more residents, however without lowering the quality of their care home.