Almost 70% of nurses across England admit they frequently delay discharge for older patients because there is no support in place for them after hospital, a survey has suggested.
A lack of social care services for older people is the key cause for this according to 96% of nurses, who also report in the survey that 40% of people aged over 75 are actually well enough to go home.
Waiting for non-acute NHS care or hospital assessments, delays in arrangements for onward care and increasing numbers of families living further away which reduces the support they can give were also all cited by around 90% of nurses as key reasons for delayed discharge.
More than half of the nurses taking part in the research – and 63% in elderly care wards − also said they are frequently pressured by relatives to keep patients in hospital longer.
“This winter we have seen delays in hospital discharge reach unprecedented levels”
The survey was carried out by older people’s charity the Royal Voluntary Service, which surveyed 189 NHS nurses. It found 95% of respondents thought delayed discharge was a serious problem in hospitals, with the vast majority saying it has worsened in the past year.
This is making ward staff feel more stressed, especially those on elderly care wards, according to around 80% of survey respondents.
At the same time, the majority of nurses reported being frequently urged by hospital management to discharge patients as quickly as possible to free up beds.
While three quarters of respondents felt families should take more responsibility for their older relatives, two thirds said relatives should not be blamed if there is not enough support in place.
Successful discharge relies on a good relationship between the NHS and social care according to 83% of nurses surveyed, as well as having a good discharge plan in place, said 80%.
Almost three quarters of nurses said they believed partnering with charities and volunteers would help ease pressure on the NHS.
David McCullough, chief executive, of the Royal Voluntary Service, said: “This winter we have seen delays in hospital discharge reach unprecedented levels, with lack of support for older people after hospital a root cause.
“While additional funding has been allocated in some areas to address the crisis, many local authorities and hospital trusts are still facing budget cuts,” he said.
“Partnering with schemes that provide greater volunteer support is a cost-effective solution which helps drive important efficiencies in hospitals and enables swift, well-managed discharge from wards,” he added.