The number of patients staying in hospital despite being well enough to leave has risen in the last year, according to a survey.

The poll for the Guardian, conducted by Doctors.net.uk, quizzed around 500 doctors, half of whom said the practice, known as bed blocking, was worse now than a year ago.

Bed blocking does not mean that hospitals are taking too long to get patients ready to leave, but are often due to delays in arranging the necessary level of care for patients who are often still heavily dependent following serious illness or major surgery.

Dr Tim Ringrose, medical director of Doctors.net.uk, said: “This research shows that hospital doctors throughout the UK are still struggling with the phenomenon of bed blocking.

“It’s not good for patients and it’s wasting valuable resources.”

Nigel Edwards of the NHS Confederation, added: “This is something we’ve been worrying about.

“There was a big improvement in this four or five years ago. But over the last few years there’s been a feeling that in some places the situation has deteriorated again.”

The Department of Health said it was making more than £160m available between to help patients leave hospital sooner and alleviate the problem.

Andrew Lansley told the paper: “It’s really important, particularly at this time of year, that we help people to leave hospital as quickly as they can, when they are ready.”