Almost 2m bed days in hospitals have been wasted since 2010 because deepening problems in social care mean patients cannot be discharged, according to new research.
Some elderly patients are being trapped in hospital for up to 30 days – a day longer than four years ago, on average – while waiting to be transferred to a residential home, despite being fit to leave.
An estimated total of 1,928,255 bed days have been lost to the NHS in England since 2010, at a cost of £526m, at a time when hospitals have been under growing pressures, according to Age UK.
Drawing on official publications, the charity showed that the average wait faced by a patient needing grab rails or ramps fitted at home has risen by 11.5% to 27.3 days, while a social care package now takes 28.6 days to be arranged, 5% longer than in 2010.
The lengthening delays have occurred at a time when local councils have cut £1.2bn from their social care budgets and the eligibility criteria for support have been tightened so help is given to fewer people, despite the ageing population.
"This marked rise since 2010 in the length of time people are being forced to linger in hospital because of a delayed assessment, care home place, home care package or home adaptation is an outcome of the crisis in social care", said Caroline Abrahams, Age UK's charity director. "It's crazy to waste expensive NHS resources in this way."
A bed in an NHS hospital costs about £1,900-a-week compared with £530 typically charged by residential homes.
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