Pa­tients ‘stranded’ in hos­pi­tals for weeks

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Laura Don­nelly HEALTH EDITOR

RIS­ING num­bers of el­derly pa­tients are be­ing “stranded” in hos­pi­tal for more than three weeks amid a grow­ing so­cial care cri­sis, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion reveals.

Last year Simon Stevens, the NHS chief ex­ec­u­tive, pledged to bring an end to the “long stay” cul­ture on the wards, promis­ing quicker as­sess­ments and more sup­port at home for those who are well enough to be dis­charged. Health of­fi­cials warned that 10 days in a hos­pi­tal bed could mean pen­sion­ers “aged” by a decade, in terms of lost mus­cle mass.

Ev­ery NHS trust was set tar­gets to re­duce such stays – defined as “su­per­stranded” cases – as part of ef­forts to re­duce pres­sures on hos­pi­tals. But new re­search shows that 87 per cent of trusts have missed their tar­gets – with the num­ber of pa­tients en­dur­ing long stays ris­ing since the prom­ise was made. Ex­perts said the use of hos­pi­tals as long-stay in­sti­tu­tions was fuelling record num­bers of can­celled op­er­a­tions. In the first quar­ter of this year, 19,969 pro­ce­dures were can­celled at the last minute, for non-clin­i­cal rea­sons – a rise of 28 per cent in five years.

The anal­y­sis reveals that four in five of such can­cel­la­tions dur­ing 2018-19 oc­cured at trusts which had missed tar­gets to cut long stays. It comes af­ter an

in­ves­ti­ga­tion by The Daily Tele­graph re­vealed soar­ing num­bers of pa­tients were suf­fer­ing re­peat can­cel­la­tions.

In to­tal, 330,826 pa­tients en­dured three-week stays in hos­pi­tals dur­ing the last fi­nan­cial year, Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion dis­clo­sures re­veal.

Anal­y­sis by CHS Health­care, which pro­vides hos­pi­tal dis­charge ser­vices, shows that 114 of 130 NHS trusts have failed to meet long-stay tar­gets.

Last June, health of­fi­cials pledged to re­lease at least 4,000 hos­pi­tal beds by assess­ing pa­tients more quickly and en­sur­ing the right help was avail­able in their own homes, or in care homes.

Since then, the num­ber of pa­tients on wards for at least three weeks has risen with 28,425 such cases in March 2019 – up from 26,890 June 2018.

It comes amid a deep­en­ing so­cial care cri­sis, which Boris John­son has pledged to fix, and fol­lows warn­ings of mount­ing chaos across the NHS, with hun­dreds of pa­tients see­ing ap­point­ments can­celled at least 10 times. Al­most 1,000 dementia pa­tients are be­ing ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal as emer­gency cases ev­ery day, of­ten be­cause of a lack of help at home. The num­ber of cases has risen by a third in four years, of­fi­cial NHS fig­ures show.

Half of pen­sion­ers who went to their lo­cal coun­cil in search of help were re­fused it, an­nual statis­tics show.

And this month a Tele­graph in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed record num­bers of el­derly peo­ple suf­fer­ing from mal­nu­tri­tion. The fig­ures have tripled in the past decade, with most cases only di­ag­nosed af­ter pen­sion­ers were ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal for other rea­sons.

An NHS spokesman said: “Thanks to NHS staff, tens of thou­sands more peo­ple were able to avoid a long stay last win­ter than the pre­vi­ous year, free­ing up al­most 2,200 beds – the equiv­a­lent of build­ing five ex­tra hos­pi­tals.

“We have launched an am­bi­tious cam­paign to en­sure all pa­tients ben­e­fit from the short­est pos­si­ble stay, get­ting home as soon as they are fit to leave with the sup­port they need.”

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