• NHS Improvement says the level of delayed discharges has increased, despite an extra £1bn was announced for social care services
  • Rate of delayed discharges has increased by almost 1 per cent
  • Many hospitals would need extra funding to increase their bed capacity over winter

Regulators have warned that urgent action is needed to ensure enough hospital beds are available over winter, saying that the government’s extra investment in social care failed to reduce the number of delayed discharges.

In its quarterly performance report for providers, NHS Improvement says the level of delayed discharges has increased since March, despite an extra £1bn being handed to social care services.

Figures published in the same report suggest the rate of delayed discharges has increased by almost 1 per cent. There were 347,860 days of delayed discharges in the first quarter of this year, compared to 345,080 in the same period last year.

Jim Mackey, chief executive, said hospitals are “very busy already” and more needs to be done to “address the occupancy situation”.

Jim mackey 4 nhs confed 2017

Jim Mackey: “More needs to be done urgently to address the occupancy situation”

Many hospitals would likely need extra funding to increase their bed capacity over winter, which may require the restoration of a dedicated winter fund.

Trusts received an extra £700m for winter pressures in 2014-15, and £300m in 2015-16. There was no separate fund in 2016-17, with the money instead added to local commissioners’ allocations. However NHSI felt there was “very little evidence” that this funding was made available to trusts.

Trusts’ financial outlook worsened by around £200m in the three months to December last year, largely due to the need to open unplanned capacity and lost elective income.

However, it is unclear whether commissioners will be able to free up any additional funding for winter, or if the government would be prepared to provide any extra revenue.

Mr Mackey said in a statement today: “We need to focus hard on the bed situation. Our hospitals are very busy already, and it’s still relatively early in the year. Last winter we ended up opening over 4,500 beds at the busiest times, mostly in an unplanned and unproductive manner.

“Winter planning is progressing well, under [national urgent and emergency care director] Pauline Philip’s leadership, but more needs to be done urgently to address the occupancy situation, in sufficient time for a more planned approach to this coming winter, and to maintain the standards we are all aiming for.”

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “Much of the provider sector’s financial performance over the rest of the year will be determined by how the NHS performs this winter.

“Last year, trusts ended up spending significantly more than planned on extra capacity to deal with record winter demand, and they lost income from elective operations they needed to cancel. These pressures are often now present throughout the year, not just at winter time.”