More than 800 patients ‘medically fit for discharge’ still in hospital in week leading up to Christmas


Just over 800 patients, ‘medically fit for discharge’, remained in hospital in the days leading up to Christmas.

The figure comes as Greater Manchester’s hospitals beds are currently ’88 per cent full’, according to the latest update from the region’s mayor, Andy Burnham.

One reason for the overcrowding, health bosses have said in recent weeks, is an increase in patients who are ‘medically fit’ for discharge, but are not being sent home – a rise which has been taking place across the year.

The NHS continues to be under strain across the board, as the number of Covid hospitalisations rise, while the system faces a workforce shortage of 10 per cent, as staff go off with sickness or isolation.

READ MORE:The reasons why so many people who are ‘medically fit for discharge’ are still in hospital beds

Health bosses confirmed that, as of December 20, 803 patients were in Greater Manchester hospitals that were medically fit for discharge.

The number was included in a briefing on the pressures on the health and care system, shared on December 23 by the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

The patients remain in hospital for multiple reasons, such as patient, carer and family choice, according to the partnership – a body which represents all the major players in the health and well-being of people in Greater Manchester.

Ambulances queue up to get patients inside the emergency department of the Royal Oldham Hospital

“As of 20th December, 803 patients were in our hospitals that were medically fit for discharge,” reads the briefing, released on Thursday. “There are variety of reasons for this including patient, carer, or family choice.

“We would like to get as many people as possible home from hospital for Christmas, with hospitals, social care and community services working closely together towards that goal.

“No one will be sent home without being clinically ready, and only if all the appropriate support is in place.

“However, for many patients’, home is the best environment for recovery.

“Being home and back to your own routine as soon as possible is important. There is strong evidence that patients recover faster in the familiar surroundings of home.”

‘It’s an uncertain picture right now’, said Mayor Andy Burnham

Last month, the body the number of hospital patients who have had their hospital discharge delayed and are classed as ‘medically fit for discharge’ has been steadily increasing throughout the year, though the exact number was not shared.

Other reasons for the delays include:

  • the impact of Covid has meant that some patients’ conditions have become more serious and they need longer recovery time in hospital

  • increased number of patients with complex needs so they need more support once discharged

  • workforce capacity/capability to discharge (a level of seniority is required to discharge patients confidently and safely)

Medics speaking to the Manchester Evening News also voiced their concerns out about the difficulty of discharging people due to a staffing crisis within social care, saying that there is no place for patients to be safe once they are well enough to leave.

Meanwhile, beds are desperately needed for Covid-19 patients, as the region sees a rise in the number needing hospitalisation.

The number of weekly admissions for Covid has risen to 130 as of December 20, in comparison to 101 as of December 6.

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On December 21, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham gave an update on the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic – adding that beds were at 88 per cent capacity as of that morning.

For now, the Manchester Evening News understand health leaders will not be discharging patients into hotels staffed by live-in carers flown to relive pressure on the NHS, as has been seen in the south of England.

But the region’s health lead, Sir Richard Leese, has said that anything over 85 pc is ‘extremely uncomfortable’ for hospitals, and has a knock-on effect on other services.

A lack of beds inside wards has seen queues of ambulances forming outside hospitals throughout the year, as paramedics wait hours to handover patients, often onto corridors, when there are no spaces frees.

Waiting times across A&Es have also skyrocketed, with the number of 12-hour waits climbing in a host of emergency departments.

Sir Richard Leese

Only furthering the problems, staffing levels within the NHS are troubling health chiefs as the workforce is hit by a challenging combination of Covid cases and people isolating, alongside other illnesses.

“We’re looking at a 10 per cent staff absence rate in the NHS, around seven per cent in Greater Manchester Police, slightly higher on the transport and Metrolink, running at 15 per cent.

“But we haven’t yet experienced the full effects of the Omicron wave, it’s just starting and the impact on our hospitals is not yet fully known,” said Mayor Burnham.

In an attempt to prevent another tidal wave of Covid cases needing hospitalisation, health leaders continue to encourage vaccine uptake.

Sarah Price, interim chief officer of Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “We continue to be concerned and vigilant about the impact that the Omicron variant is having on both local people and NHS services.

“Coronavirus infection rates in Greater Manchester are lower than the England average, though the rate is rising quickly – so, we need everyone to make sure they are fully vaccinated. Remember, if you’ve only had two doses of the vaccination, you need a booster too, as your level of protection will have reduced over time.

Ambulances queue outside Stepping Hill A&E department earlier this year

“There has already been an amazing response in Greater Manchester to the call to come forward for vaccination, but if you are among those yet to get protected, please don’t delay – we’ve put on extra vaccination clinics across the city-region, meaning it’s now easier than ever to get a jab.

“I want everyone celebrating to have the best possible Christmas, but we can’t just throw caution to the wind. Please act sensibly, reduce social contact where you can, make sure you’re taking Covid tests before meeting up with friends and family, wear face coverings where required and remember the importance of hand washing and letting fresh air in.”

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