Over 13,000 hospital beds in England last week filled with people fit to leave

A general view of staff on a NHS hospital ward at Ealing Hospital in London. Credit: PA

More than 13,500 hospital beds in England last week were filled with people who were fit to leave, with a chronic lack of social care leaving many without a suitable place to go. An average of 13,566 beds were taken up with medically fit patients in the seven days to January 22, down from 14,036 the previous week and an all-time high of 14,069 in the week to January 8. At this point last year the number stood at 12,819. The proportion of patients ready to leave hospital last week but who remained in their beds stood at 59%, according to newly released NHS figures. This is down from a record 63% in the week to January.

What else do the new NHS statistics show?

  • Ambulance handover delays outside hospitals in England are continuing to improve and have dropped to a new low for this winter. A total of 20% of ambulance patients waited at least 30 minutes last week to be handed to A&E teams, down from 23% the previous week. The figure hit a record 44% in the week to January 1. Some 7% of patients waited more than an hour last week to be handed over to A&E teams – again, the lowest so far this winter, and down week-on-week from 9%.

  • The number of flu patients in hospitals in England has dropped by nearly two-thirds since the start of the year. An average of 2,034 patients were in hospital beds each day last week, down 63% from the week to January. At this point last winter the figure stood at just 36. Flu is one of a number of pressures the NHS has been facing this winter, along with bed shortages, delayed discharges of medically fit patients, and a fresh wave of Covid-19 infections.

  • There were 5,632 patients with Covid-19 in hospitals in England on January 18, a drop of 40% since January 1. The figure peaked at 9,535 on December 29, but this was well below levels seen in previous waves.

Professor Julian Redhead, NHS England national clinical director for urgent and emergency care, said: “These new figures show that while there have been improvements in ambulance handovers and fewer flu patients in hospital, the NHS remains under significant pressure. “Last week saw more people being taken to A&E by ambulance, bed occupancy is still constrained, and illnesses like flu and norovirus are still a very real concern. “The NHS has done extensive preparation for this winter, including rolling out extra beds, a national falls services and nationwide 24/7 control centres to track and manage demand, and NHS staff are working flat-out to continue to provide the best care for our patients in the face of ongoing pressures."

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The comments come as many ambulance services continue to be under strain with the huge number of calls they are receiving.

The Association of Ambulance Chief Executives said 6,000 people are estimated to have suffered “severe harm” as a result of ambulances being delayed for more than an hour at the doors of emergency departments last month.

Ambulance workers launched a fresh strike on Monday in an escalating dispute over pay and staffing, with more walkouts planned as industrial action spreads across the public sector. Thousands of nurses from the Royal College of Nursing were already scheduled to strike on February 6 and 7, but the GMB union announced earlier last week that its ambulance workers would join them on February 6.

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