Delays in discharging patients costs NHS £100 million a year

A documentary has revealed that delays in discharging patients from hospital are costing the NHS around £100 million annually.

Panorama interviewed Professor Keith Willett, NHS England's director for acute care, who said that the delays were as a result of patients needing to wait for social care to be arranged before they could leave hospital.

He said that the health care and social care sectors needed to merge in order to better manage patients and slash the delays. He also claimed that tightening of budgets given to local authorities across the country were making matters worse.

“There's bound to be a consequence”, Professor Willett said of the budget cuts. “Social care and local authorities have taken a significant reduction. We need to join the services up and one of the key things we have to do is to bring the doctors, the nurses, the social workers back together."

He added: “It's expensive for the NHS and it's wrong for patients to keep them in high acuity health care environments when they'd be much better off at home being supported in their own environments.”

The documentary – entitled ‘A Week in A&E: Condition Critical?’ – screened last night, Monday 17 March, on BBC1 and focused on how staff are being driven away from A&E departments as a result of the strain of the job.

Documentary makers filmed at the A&E department of University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton, Teesside, and interviewed numerous members of staff, many of whom spoke of the impossibility of meeting “unachievable” targets to see patients within four hours, as well as one who called the UK’s A&E a “sinking ship”.

Panorama revealed the £100 million figure from its compilation of NHS England data from 245 trusts over the past two years.

A Department of Health spokesperson said that it was aware that the NHS was “facing significant pressures”, and added that it was working on “bringing back the link between GPs and elderly patients and investing £3.8 billion in joining up health and social care” in a bid to combat the problem.