Chiefs struggle to cut bed-blocking at Sheffield hospitals

SHSC Chief Executive Kevan Taylor
SHSC Chief Executive Kevan Taylor

More than 100 beds a day are still taken up at Sheffield’s adult hospitals by patients well enough to leave but with nowhere to go - a month after The Star first highlighted the issue.

According to the most recent figures from NHS England, as of Wednesday 113 beds were unavailable at hospitals including the Northern General, occupied by patients fit to be discharged.

To add to the strain, on the same day 45 beds were closed due to people suffering from the vomiting bug norovirus.

The bed-blocking is triggered mainly by delays in arranging social care, and limits new admissions. Sheffield also still has the second-highest rate of ‘delayed transfers of care’ in the country, behind Oxford.

It costs the NHS around £260 a day to keep one patient in hospital.

Millions of pounds is being invested in Sheffield to provide rehabilitation and longer-term care through a scheme called Right First Time.

Kevan Taylor, chief executive of Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, admitted some of the new services were ‘taking a little while to bed in’, but added: “We are beginning to see some improvement.”

“The number of people who remain in hospital but are medically fit for discharge fluctuates day by day,” said Mr Taylor, who is also lead executive officer for Right First Time.

“Traditionally the peak is in winter because there are a higher number of frail elderly patients whose discharge is often more complicated and it takes longer to put appropriate support in place.

“As well as this, there is an increase in demand for rehabilitation, nursing and social care support due to the growing ageing population of the city.

“There is now a weekly meeting which includes representatives from health and social care who try to actively manage the flow of appropriate patients through from hospital into community based services.”

Hilary Chapman, chief nurse at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: “The figures published by NHS England are a snapshot in time and the number of beds affected by norovirus can fluctuate hourly.

“However, we can say that we have seen much lower levels of norovirus this winter and the bug has had less of an impact on the number of beds closed than usual.”