Hospital bed blocking 'at its worst' for 4 years at Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust
Almost two wards of patients cannot be discharged from Cornwall's main hospital every day as bed blocking hits its worst point in four years.
According to the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust (RCHT) yesterday 32 patients were unable to leave despite being declared fit enough to do so because ongoing care was not available.
Graham Webster, a public governor at RCHT and vice-chairman of Health Initiative Cornwall, said he was deeply worried.
"These are significant figures," said Mr Webster.
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"We are talking nearly two wards' worth of patients, all of whom are probably desperate to get out of the acute hospital and receive care closer to home. Yet though they are ready to leave they cannot and they have to wait.
"Meanwhile we have very poorly patients coming to the RCHT in ambulance and they have to wait to be admitted."
According to the RCHT's latest board papers, there were "exceptionally high numbers" of delayed discharges in February.
The problem occurs when beds in an acute hospital like RCHT, which deals with serious, complex and emergency cases, are effectively blocked to incoming patients by those with ongoing care needs who cannot be discharged because a cottage hospital bed or package is not ready.
The trust said delayed discharge had affected an average of 35 patients a day this month – the worst since April 2009.
A spokesman for the trust said most of these patients would wait for up to two weeks to be discharged.
Jo Gibbs, RCHT chief operating officer, said there were "significant concerns" about the time lapse.
"For RCHT, delayed discharges mean our doctors and nurses feel they cannot provide the very best care, due to crowding in our emergency department, cancellation of planned surgery and financial penalties.
"We are doing what we can to fully support an integrated health and social care system that puts patient needs first."
Peninsula Community Health, the private company which runs Cornwall's cottage hospitals, has maintained it is performing to contract and though bed levels have reduced, it is still treating the same numbers.
Andrew Abbott, director of operations for NHSKernow, which takes over purchasing healthcare on behalf of patients in April, said it was a "whole system issue" and a series of measures had been put in place "to support providers in tackling all of the issues in play".
A spokesman for Cornwall Council's adult care and support service said: "There has been a steady downward trend over the last three years because of delays due to Adult Care and Support, and over the last few months, there have been no more than seven people waiting to leave an acute hospital because they require an assessment or funding from Cornwall Council."