nurse_1470102cHospitals are facing growing “bed blocking” problems as they try to deal with an increase in the number of patients needing to be admitted as emergencies this winter.

New NHS figures show the total number of bed days lost because of “delayed transfers of care” – usually caused because social care support is not available to allow a fit patient to return home – hit 70,124 last month, the highest December total since the NHS started recording the figures in 2010.

The 162,728 delayed discharges so far this winter are well up on last winter’s 135,368 equivalent.

Dame Barbara Hakin, deputy chief executive of NHS England, said it was “concerning” that the 103,071 patients admitted as emergencies last week was 7,781 higher than at the same time the year before and 1,259 up week-on-week.

While the number of cancelled operations fell week-on-week to 1,126, a total of 12,445 have already been cancelled this winter, up 1,220 on the 11,225 seen in the equivalent period 12 months before.

Andrew Gwynne MP, the shadow health minister, said:

“It is truly sad and a direct result of this Government’s brutal cuts to social care. Ministers left people without the home care they need and many turning to A&E for support.

“Hospitals are now full to bursting and patients are suffering the unacceptable anguish of having their operation cancelled.

“David Cameron failed to act on the warnings and now whole hospitals are consumed by his A&E crisis.”

A shorter version of this article appeared in The Guardian on 25th January 2014.

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