Delays in providing community equipment or making adaptations to homes are contributing to a backlog of patients stuck on hospital wards and unable to be discharged.
That’s according to Marie Curie, which has published a report claiming that more than 200 patients died in Northern Ireland’s hospitals in 2017-18 while waiting to be discharged.
The terminal illness charity’s report that shows discharge delays resulted in patients spending thousands of extra days in hospital beds every month after being declared ready to leave, with some dying while waiting to be discharged.
More than 46,000 hospital bed days were wasted across the health service because of delayed discharges, according to the report.
Shortages in community care packages and care home spaces were among the reasons for the levels of bed blocking.
Joan McEwan, head of policy and public affairs for Marie Curie Northern Ireland, said that it was “unacceptable” that pressures such as delays in getting equipment or making adaptations are preventing terminally ill people from leaving hospital.
She said: “The local population is getting older and we’re seeing more and more people living with terminal illnesses and complex needs.
“Not only is this resulting in greater numbers of hospital admissions, it is also putting massive additional pressure on community care, which is vital in helping the safe and prompt discharge of patients back home.
“In the years ahead, Northern Ireland’s population is predicted to keep getting older and, unfortunately, sicker, so urgent solutions are required if we want to prevent even more vulnerable patients being stuck in hospital beds when they shouldn’t be.”
The largest contributing factor to the discharge delays was lack of domiciliary care packages, which accounted for nearly 13,000 delayed bed days across the health service in 2017-18.
Hospital care planning issues also accounted for over 10,000 delayed days, while shortage of care home beds resulted in 7,775 delayed days.
Earlier this year, AMP carried out research revealing the primary reasons for delayed transfers of care in NHS England.
Hospital patients waiting for community equipment or for their homes to be adapted caused nearly 45,000 days’ worth of bed blocking in the 12 months to November 2018.
The equivalent of 123 beds per month across NHS trusts in England were blocked because patients had to wait for community equipment and adaptations during the period.
With a total of more than 1.5m days’ worth of delayed transfers of care (DTOCs) over the period however, the wait for community equipment and adaptations caused just 3% of all delays in NHS England trusts between November 2017 and November 2018.