Nearly a quarter of people have personal experience of 'bed-blocking' in the NHS, poll finds

Liberal Democrats' leader Sir Ed Davey - Andrew Matthews/PA
Liberal Democrats' leader Sir Ed Davey - Andrew Matthews/PA

Nearly a quarter of people have personal experience of “bed-blocking” in the NHS because of a lack of care home beds, polling has found.

According to a survey by Savanta of 2,320 UK adults, 23 per cent of people said that over the past year they or someone they knew had remained in hospital because no social care bed could be found.

Meanwhile, 22 per cent said either they or someone they knew had experienced difficulty getting a bed in a local care home over the past year.

The Liberal Democrats, who commissioned the polling, said the lack of social care provision is feeding into the crisis unfolding in the NHS of delayed discharges and long waiting times.

In some parts of the country, almost one in four patients waited over 12 hours to be admitted to hospital from A&E last year because of the lack of hospital beds.

At Blackpool Teaching Hospitals Trust, 24 per cent of patients waited at least 12 hours, while the figure was 23 per cent in North Middlesex University Hospital Trust, and 21 per cent at Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, East Cheshire Trust and Croydon Health Services Trust.

Excessive bureaucracy

In addition to the lack of social care, bed-blocking has been blamed on excessive bureaucracy in the NHS's discharge policy.

Hospital staff have to complete 50 separate steps on average to discharge a patient.

Many hospitals also have limits on the times their pharmacies are open, meaning patients can find themselves unnecessarily stuck on a ward awaiting medication before being able to leave.

To address staff shortages in social care, the Lib Dems have adopted a new flagship policy for a "carer’s minimum wage". Under the policy, social care workers would be paid at least £2 an hour more than the current minimum wage, increasing their pay to at least £11.50 an hour.

Party leader Sir Ed Davey told The Telegraph: “It is a stain on the conscience of our country that far too many elderly and vulnerable people are being left without the care they need and deserve.

“Staff shortages in the care sector are having a devastating impact on the NHS, contributing to record long waits at A&E and terrible ambulance delays. Thousands of people are stranded in hospital beds because there simply aren’t enough care workers to look after them at home or in a care home.”

Government plans

According to analysis by the House of Commons Library, in April 2022 care and home workers received on average a gross weekly pay of £447, compared to £477 for supermarket workers, £485 for those in retail and £468 for those in hospitality.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We are prioritising health and social care with £14.1 billion over the next two years, including up to £7.5 billion for adult social care – the biggest funding increase in history.

“This is on top of an additional £250 million to free up hospital beds and reduce pressures on A&E, our £500 million discharge fund, as well as work to boost the social care workforce by recruiting more staff both at home and internationally.”

“Backed by this funding, our new urgent and emergency care plan will reduce waiting times and improve patients’ experiences by delivering 5,000 more hospital beds and piloting a new approach to supporting people as they leave hospital, improving how patients receive rehabilitation and physiotherapy including at home.”