Elderly patients who are stranded in hospital because of the social care crisis have used up 2.5million NHS bed days since the last election, blocking a total of almost 3,000 a day.

A major study found ‘bed-blocking’ caused by the failure to reform the broken care system is costing taxpayers £640,000 every day.

This is because patients end up stuck in hospital despite being medically fit to leave as no adequate social care package is available.

Instead they are trapped on hospital wards for days or weeks, often becoming frail and lonely.

It also means fewer beds are available for sick patients, leading to long waiting times and the crisis in A&Es.

Analysis by Age UK found that between the last general election in June 2017 and the upcoming vote on December 12, more than 2.5million NHS bed days have been lost to elderly patients with no clinical need to be in hospital.

A major study found 'bed-blocking' caused by the failure to reform the broken care system is costing taxpayers £640,000 every day

A major study found 'bed-blocking' caused by the failure to reform the broken care system is costing taxpayers £640,000 every day

A major study found ‘bed-blocking’ caused by the failure to reform the broken care system is costing taxpayers £640,000 every day

It has cost the NHS an extra £587 million to care for these patients in hospital as it would if they were looked after by the social care system.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK, said the findings of the study were ‘appalling’ and warned that hospitals were being ‘jammed up by older people’.

‘The waste of money this represents is staggering, coming in at more than half a billion pounds, but the human cost is arguably even greater.

‘We are all paying the price for the inability of our politicians to fix social care, whether you are waiting endlessly for a much needed knee operation or facing hours of delay in A&E following an accident at home.

‘When hospitals get jammed up because they can’t discharge older people the effects feed right the way through and mean there are no beds for new patients who need them.’ 

She said it is ‘imperative’ that the next Government makes social care their priority.

The charity warned that patients face being stranded in hospital over the festive season, including one 98-year-old man called Mo, who has been in hospital for five months because there is no social care package.

The Daily Mail launched a major campaign in July calling on the Prime Minister to fix the dementia care crisis.

We are campaigning for reform of the broken system which forces thousands of people to sell their homes to fund crippling care costs.

Sally Copley, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘The failings in the social care system are pushing families with dementia to breaking point, and leaving too many vulnerable people stuck in hospital with nowhere else to go.

‘We hear tragic stories through our Fix Dementia Care campaign – a mother who spent years in hospital while being turned away from care home after care home, a woman who spent two months on a bed in a corridor because she couldn’t get a care home place.

‘Winter is well on its way, and pressure on hospitals is only going to get worse. Fixing this problem is not just the humane thing to do, it is the smart thing to do – it is more expensive to keep a person with dementia in hospital than for them to get the care they need and deserve.’ 

Barbara Keeley, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Social Care, said: ‘The Conservatives’ failure to propose a solution to the crisis in social care has left the NHS picking up the pieces, and left patients trapped in hospital when they should be able to have the support they need at home.

‘Tory cuts to council budgets has meant £7.7billion has been lost from social care budgets and they have squeezed NHS funding so that the vital care people need outside of hospital just isn’t available.’

Labour has pledged to build a National Care Service that will deliver free personal care for older people, and invest an additional £10billion of funding by 2023/24.

Boris Johnson pledged to ‘fix the social care crisis once and for all’ in his first speech after becoming Prime Minister.

He has insisted that no one will be forced to sell their homes to pay for care under a Conservative Government, but has released no specific details of how he plans to achieve this.

The Tory manifesto does contain a ‘three-point’ blueprint to tackle the crisis in care for the elderly, including an immediate funding boost of £1billion a year.

Age UK used data on delayed transfers of care because of social care reasons held by NHS England up to September 2019.

It estimated the number of delayed days for the remaining months by using the previous year’s data.

To calculate the cost to the NHS, it subtracted estimated daily costs of care in a residential care home, nursing home or the person’s own home from the cost of an excess bed day as estimated by NHS Improvement. 


Nine out of 10 hospital beds in England were full between July and September, according to NHS statistics last month.

Figures revealed more than 50 hospitals had more beds occupied than the NHS’s 92 per cent safe operating limit.

The second-quarter figures were the worst in at least a decade and on par with those normally seen in the depths of winter.

Leading English surgeons said bed closures have ‘gone too far’ and when so many beds are full operations have to be cancelled and flu spreads quickly.

One hospital – North Middlesex University Hospital in London – was 100 per cent full for the entire three months, the data showed.

The hospital denied it didn’t have any beds free and argued patients were kept on ‘flexible beds’ which aren’t officially counted.


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