Delays in discharging patients from acute hospitals are increasingly being blamed on the NHS rather than local authorities, data suggests, despite large cuts to social services budgets.

The number of days of delay for acute patients recorded as “attributable” to the NHS has risen to 47,000 in September. This is 14 per cent higher than the figure in April. There were fewer than 14,000 delays due to social care, a rise of only 4 per cent.

The figures come from HSJ’s analysis of the first six months of published data detailing the reasons for delayed transfers of care. Each delay is attributed to either the NHS, the social care provider or both. NHS delays are often down to commissioners failing to agree assessments or care packages.

From April to September 2011 there was a 46 per cent increase in the days waited each month for NHS care packages, such as district nurses or a physiotherapist in patients’ homes.

In September patients nationwide were delayed for a total of nearly 1,500 days – up 21 per cent on the April figure – because the patient had been assessed but was “awaiting public funding” from the NHS for their continuing healthcare.

Most delays

Hospitals with the most days of delay to acute patients in September “attributable” to NHS

Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals Trust2,177 days
University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trust1,382 days
Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust1,274 days

Source: Department of Health

In the same month the number of patients delayed by social care providers fell by more than a quarter. Social care funding has been reduced by 6.9 per cent this year, according to a survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.

ADASS vice president Sarah Pickup said local authorities had made significant investment in reablement services.

NHS Confederation deputy policy director Jo Webber said: “People are looking at where every pound is going at the moment. PCTs will be reassessing people for continuing care and be very tight about the criteria they are using, within national guidance.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “No one should be made to stay in hospital longer than necessary. The NHS and social care must work together to ensure people have the support they need on leaving hospital. The new clinical commissioning groups will bring together GPs, specialist doctors and nurses to shape the best local care for patients, helping to avoid unnecessary delays.

“The Department will be investing extra cash to help people return to their homes after a spell in hospital - by 2012-13 this will be £300m per year. This money will help people to leave hospital more quickly and get settled back at home with the support they need.”