THE NEWS COMMENT: It’s time to crack the problem of bed-blocking for good

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It’s a problem we’ve visited time and time again – so-called ‘bed-blocking’.

First off, the term itself is not ideal as it makes it sound like the patient is the one at fault.

When in fact, as we report today, they are often the ones who are hit the worst.

The News has told of the ongoing problems at Queen Alexandra Hospital with regard to ‘delayed discharge’ patients time and time again.

And we’ve explained the blame does not lie at the door of the fantastic NHS staff who very often go the extra mile to make sure patients get the best care. We have nothing but praise for them; it’s not the hospital’s fault.

But today for the first time, we bring you the inside story.

Jack Lovelock has been stuck at QA for 26 days. He was admitted after his emphysema worsened, and after being cared for he is now well enough to be let out. All he wants to do is go home. So far, so good.

But he can’t until his care plan is in place.

And because he believes he is not deemed a ‘priority’ by the county council, there is no end in sight.

What this story reveals is the personal difficulties endured by people because of a systemic failure. Jack is just one case in what must be many locally and thousands up and down the country.

And the knock-on effects are tremendous.

Because patients such as Jack can’t get out, beds are not freed up and this puts pressure throughout the hospital system, right back to A&E.

And that’s why ambulances find themselves queuing up outside the hospital with patients in the back.

They can’t go in because there’s no room. Recently several sources have told us that there are, on average, more than 200 people waiting to be sent home; cured by the hospital, but let down by the bureaucracy afterward. That’s too many.

We know, of course, that no magic wand can be waved to solve this. And we know that it’s going to take time and investment, something the NHS is short of on both counts. But surely the time has come to say enough it enough.