Official figures indicate that NHS bedblocking is at the worst level in the entire history of the National Health Service.
Data produced by NHS England indicates that the number of patients stuck needlessly in hospital beds has nearly doubled in recent years.
Over 115,000 bed days were lost to delayed discharges in June, with this figure being more than 80% higher than for the same period in June 2011.
And the figures related to accident and emergency targets were also rather alarming.
Just over 90% of patients who attended A&E departments were seen within the four-hour deadline, compared to a target of 95%.
This is the worst effort in June since records began.
These latest problems for the NHS can be placed in a climate of numerous senior managers warning that Accident and Emergency department are struggling to deal with their workload.
A Department of Health spokesperson commented on the crisis, pointing out that the performance figures must be seen in a wider context.
“The NHS had its busiest June ever, but hospitals are performing well with nine out of ten people seen in A&E within four hours – almost 60,000 people per day seen within the standard. We are committed to delivering a safer seven day NHS which is why we have invested £10bn to fund the NHS’s own plan to transform services in the future.”
Vicky McDermott, chairman of the Care and Support Alliance, which represents 80 charities for the elderly and disabled, attributed the problems to a lack of investment from the government.
“The Government cannot continue to ignore the crisis that means that patients are stuck in hospital, when they could be at home. The funding crisis in social care is heaping needless pressure onto the NHS. A third of bed days lost to delayed discharge are due to social care and the biggest reason for social care delays is ‘patients awaiting a care package in their home.’”
While Labour leadership candidate Owen Smith, opined the NHS was “in terminal decline”, and firmly placed the blame on the Conservative government.
“With Jeremy Hunt in charge hospitals lurch from one crisis to another – and it is patients who are left to suffer. Waits for ambulances are going up, A&E departments are bursting at the seams and cuts to social care have left older people trapped on hospital wards for weeks or even months at a time.”
Smith also took the opportunity to rather transparently make some political capital out of the issue.
“This is no way to run the NHS and with a weak opposition we are letting the Tories get away with it,” Smith asserted.
Matthew Swindells, NHS England’s National Director: Operations and Information, defended the performance of A&E, suggesting that services were being placed under intense scrutiny at present, and this must be taken into consideration when assessing the figures.
“Our frontline 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 ten 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.”
Local authorities are being provided with an additional £3.5 billion funding for adult social care, in attempt to ease the bedblocking crisis, according to officials.