N&N bed-blocking crisis

MARK NICHOLLS A bed-blocking crisis at Norfolk's busiest hospital is draining millions of pounds from the county's health economy, with some patients waiting weeks to be discharged.

MARK NICHOLLS

A bed-blocking crisis at Norfolk's busiest hospital is draining millions of pounds from the county's health economy, with some patients waiting weeks to be discharged.

At times almost 10pc of the 987 beds at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital are blocked by patients waiting to be transferred to other units for the next phase of treatment - and the cost of having to wait on wards averages £100 a day per patient.

Top-level talks between N&N, health and social services bosses are under way to resolve the continuing crisis, first reported by the EDP in July when more than 80 beds were blocked. A “normal” level is around 30.

While exact figures for the cost of the bed-blocking crisis across Norfolk are not readily available, health chiefs acknowledged it is running into millions of pounds a year.

Latest figures show about 70 N&N beds - the equivalent of more than two wards - have patients waiting to go to a community hospital or be discharged into the care of social services or go home, but cannot do so until beds are available or an appropriate package of care is ready.

Most Read

Bed-blocking also means beds are not available for patients waiting to come in for treatment.

And in another twist Norfolk primary care trust says some of its community care beds are being blocked because patients are waiting for some form of social care.

Figures obtained by North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb under Freedom of Information legislation show that for the year from September 2006, hundreds of patients were trapped in the system.

Mr Lamb described the situation as “scandalous,” adding: “It is costing the NHS a fortune and we need urgent financial incentives put in place to force the NHS and social services to get their act together. My concern is that some people are delayed for days or even weeks. What this tells me is that the system is not working.”

He suggests an inquiry with three MPs from different parties.

N&N spokesman Andrew Stronach said: “Things have improved as we now have 68 patients fit for discharge who are delayed and that's down from 80. A delayed discharge generally involves days or weeks but in some cases it is months.”

On average it costs £100 to keep a patient in hospital overnight.

The 409-bed Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, says it rarely has more than three or four delayed discharges. The 580-bed James Paget University Hospital, Gorleston, acknowledged it had a bed-blocking problem but refused to give figures.

Norfolk PCT's deputy director of provider services, Tony Hadley, said: “Out of the beds blocked at the N&N, 40 of those patients are awaiting social care from social services. The PCT would be responsible for the remaining 20 patients, who are awaiting ongoing intermediate care services, to be provided at one of our community hospitals for example.”

Director of adult social services at County Hall, Harold Bodmer, said: “We are continuing to work on a regular basis with the N&N to help resolve the issue of delayed discharges.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter