SOME patients in Swansea Bay have waited for months to be discharged from hospital, despite being fit to do so.
The longest three patient waits, as of March 18 this year – before coronavirus pandemic emergency measures began – were 24 weeks, just over 22 weeks and just under 20 weeks.
The reasons were waiting a new home care package, waiting for a place in a nursing home, and likewise a place in a care home.
Across Swansea Bay University Health Board, which has three main hospitals, there were 192 medically fit patients waiting to leave.
The figures follow a Freedom of Information request from the Local Democracy Reporter Service.
Health boards everywhere have been grappling with this bed-blocking issue for years.
Often families or councils are required to make the alternative arrangements to enable patients to leave. Sometimes a place is needed in a step-down community hospital in a neighbouring health board area.
Bed-blocking has repercussions, though, delaying the flow of patients from the front door and out at the back.
A health board spokeswoman said: “We aim to safely discharge patients as soon as they are medically well enough to leave.
“In some cases, a safe place may require additional support being put in place, like home adaptations or community support arrangements, which are often arranged by other organisations.”
However, new Welsh Government guidance since the coronavirus outbreak requires that acute and community hospitals discharge patients as soon as clinically safe to do so.
For patients whose needs whose needs are too great to return home, transfer is being arranged to a suitable step-down facility, which could be in a community hospital, care home or even a field hospital.
The guidance said patients transferring to a new care home placement would not be able to wait in hospital until their preferred choice of care home had a vacancy. This would mean a temporary stay in an alternative care home.
It also said additional funding was available to local authorities to cover any increased costs during this period, and called for extra capacity to be made in domiciliary care, care homes and re-ablement services.
Current and new NHS volunteers, added the guidance, would also play a role.
“They can greatly speed up the discharge process and also reduce the likelihood of readmission by ensuring that the person has the right support and resources in place at home,” it said.