Patients spending millions of unnecessary days in hospital

A new analysis of NHS figures by the terminal illness charity Marie Curie shows that patients in England spent 1.7 million unnecessary days in hospital in 2018.

NHS England’s ‘Delayed Transfers of Care’ figures show the number of days patients spend in hospital after they are ready to be discharged. The most common reasons for delayed discharge in 2018 were a shortage of care home and nursing home places (445,868 days, 26%) and a lack of home care packages (361,831 days, 21%).

For people at the end of life, a delayed transfer can mean someone dying on a busy hospital ward when they would rather be at home. Figures recently uncovered by Marie Curie show that as many as 10,000 people died in 2017/18 while waiting for a package of care in their own homes.

The new monthly delayed transfer of care figures for February 2019 was released this week. Last month’s figures showed a 5% rise in delayed transfer days between December 2018 and January 2019, from 129,374 to 135,683 days.

Jackie’s Mum Kathleen died of Alzheimer’s, aged 78. Kathleen spent 10 days on a busy hospital ward at the end of her life.

Jackie said: “At the end, I was there for my Mum. We wanted it to be a quiet time – it was very difficult. Beyond the closed curtain, there was so much noise – with visitors coming and going; and staff going about their rounds. It wasn’t peaceful or serene. It wasn’t nice. Mum deserved a dignified end, it should have been more dignified and calm.”

“At no point did anyone talk to us about Mum’s final wishes or whether it was possible or not for Mum to leave the hospital. She was in the hospital for 10 days before she died. Surely, it wouldn’t have been too difficult to organise an ambulance to move Mum from the hospital ward to a local hospice, or even home. Dad would have loved the chance to have cared for Mum one last time, during her final days at home. We know it would have been more peaceful and dignified and less stressful for all of us. Even now, we feel guilty and wonder if we could have done more for Mum.”

Scott Sinclair, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Marie Curie, said:

“Right now thousands of people are stuck in hospital when they don’t want or need to be there. Many will die there. While hospital staff do a brilliant job, we must do more to honour people’s dying wishes and, overwhelmingly, we know most people’s wish is to be at home. Any delay in getting someone out of the hospital is a waste of time that a dying person and their family doesn’t have.”