A report conducted by the National Audit Office suggests that NHS England must ensure that patient delays in the process of being released from hospital are seriously reduced.
The report asserts that the problem causes unnecessary harm to patients in the health service and wastes NHS money.
Indeed, the watchdog calculated that delays are costing in excess of £820 million every year at present.
And this is an issue that also bears down disproportionately on the infirm and vulnerable.
The National Audit Office believes that the practice puts older patient at greater risk because they lose mobility during extended stays in health service institutions.
This report follows a year in which delays hit record levels during winter because of a lack of support available in local communities.
Figures collated by the National Audit Office indicate that the number of delays has risen by one-third in the past two years.
And the audit office also believes that it would be more affordable to offer care in the community for patients in this situation, with the estimated outlay on an annual basis for this reckoned to be in the region of £180 million; a saving of nearly £650 million.
Meanwhile, the National Audit Office also suggested that the report could even have underestimated the current situation, with the NHS only currently measuring delay from the point patients are deemed ready for discharge.
Commenting on the issue, the head of the National Audit Office, Amyas Morse, suggested that the current situation in hospitals is unacceptable, and that elderly people are bearing the brunt of this issue.
“There are currently far too many older people in hospitals who do not need to be there. Without radical action, this problem will worsen and add further strain to the financial sustainability of the NHS and local government.”
There were some positive signs from the reports, with the National Audit Office acknowledging that steps are being taken in order to achieve earlier discharge.
However, even the creation of specialist teams within the health service are yet to be widespread enough in order to greatly impact on the issue.
And the greying population in England, which is set to expand in the coming years based on current demographics, indicates that the situation will get worse, and is ultimately unsustainable.
Councillor Izzi Seccombe, of the Local Government Association, urged for the situation to be addressed immediately.
“Getting people out of hospital more quickly and back living at home will only work properly if councils get enough resource throughout the whole year to properly fund adequate provision of care services.”