Delays in discharging patients 23% rise

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Delays in discharging patients from hospital have risen 23% since June last year, NHS England has revealed.

Every day more than 6,000 patients well enough to leave hospital are unable to do so because there is nowhere suitable for them to be discharged to.

NHS England said this figure had now stopped rising but showed the importance of "joined-up" care.

It also missed waiting-time targets for planned operations, accident and emergency units and ambulance callouts.

  • 90.5% of A&E patients were seen within four hours in June, up from 90.2% in May but below the 95% target
  • Just over 69% of ambulances reached the most serious callouts within eight minutes, below the 75% target
  • 91.5% patients waited less than 18 weeks for an operation, below the 92% target

An NHS England spokesman said: "It's important patients who are well enough to leave hospital can do so at the earliest opportunity, and in some parts of the country the system is working well.

"These figures underline the importance of joined-up care within the NHS and the dependence of hospitals on well-functioning social care services - particularly for older people living at home."

A waiting time target for mental health, introduced in April, requires that most people experiencing their first psychotic episode are treated with a National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommended package of care within two weeks of referral.

And the latest figures show that just over 73% started treatment within two weeks in June.

But, as BBC News has reported, Freedom of Information requests showed nearly a quarter of local commissioning groups in England offered the package only to patients aged 35 or under rather up to the age of 65 as required by the target.

Hospitals in England handled more than 1.9 million A&E attendances in June, a 2.1% increase on the same month last year, and more than 480,000 emergency admissions, a 4.7% rise.

NHS England director of operations and information Matthew Swindells said: "Our front-line services continue to come under intense pressure, but June saw another improvement in performance.

"We continue to admit, treat or discharge more than nine out of 10 emergency patients within the four-hour target time.

"Thanks to tremendous efforts by the NHS and social care, the number of delayed transfers of care stopped increasing in June, although there were still a significant number of patients waiting for discharge from hospital."

'Break the cycle'

Stephen Dalton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents most NHS Trusts, said their staff on the front line were working "flat out" and "deserve recognition for the dedication they display day in day out".

"But unless we break the cycle, performance results will continue to follow this downward trend," he said.

"The recent and important relaxation of some targets, and of the penalties for missing them, will give many hospitals much needed opportunity.

"We now need the government to incentivise greater coordination between local authorities and the NHS and to invest more in out-of-hospital health and care."

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The figures come as United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust said it was considering closing the A&E department of Grantham and District Hospital due to a severe shortage of doctors.

It said closing the Grantham A&E rather than the departments at Lincoln County Hospital or Pilgrim Hospital in Boston was the "safest option".

In April Chorley Hospital closed its A&E department temporarily, because it could not "recruit enough staff to provide a safe service".

In January NHS England showed 88.7% of A&E patients had been dealt with in four hours, the worst monthly performance since the target was introduced in 2004.

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