Each day 4,000 elderly patients are left in hospital despite being fit to leave, according to research by the National Audit Office (NAO).
The report, which looked at NHS hospitals in England, warned that more needed to be done to ensure the Government’s target of ending “widespread delays” was met by 2004.
The shortage of nursing and residential home places is the biggest obstacle to eradicating the problem, the NAO said. But delays in finding places for those needing intermediate care or in completing alterations to patients’ homes also meant people stayed in hospital for longer than necessary. The NAO acknowledged that one reason for delays was a shortage of trained therapists, meaning needs assessments could not be carried out. Hospitals should start to plan for each patient’s discharge as early as possible the NAO said.