The number of patients trapped in hospital despite being fit to leave is three times higher than official data shows, according to a study.
Nuffield Trust, a health thinktank said far more hospital beds were taken up by patients classed as “delayed transfers of care” than NHS England’s counting system detected.
NHS bosses said the findings bore out their own experience and the official figures hugely underestimated how many people had to stay in hospital because of problems elsewhere.
Nigel Edwards, Nuffield Trust’s chief executive, who undertook the research, said: “Our audits show that up to two-thirds of the patients stuck unnecessarily in hospital beds aren’t actually being counted in the official figures.
“That means that a typical 650-bed hospital may actually have only around 250 beds available for all its emergency patients, once you’ve taken out all the people who could go home if they had more support, and discounted maternity, paediatric and cancer beds.”
Delayed transfers – which some call bed-blocking – are running at their highest ever level, with 193,680 bed days lost because of it in November, according to the most recent official NHS figures.
Edwards cited his thinktank’s own research about bed occupancy trends at three small and medium-sized hospitals NHS hospitals and a separate study of 7,500 bed days in a large number of bigger hospitals.
In one small rural hospital, only 40 (24%) of the 277 patients examined were counted…