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Hospital patients waiting up to three-and-a-half years for delayed care transfers

Welsh NHS patients have been languishing in hospital beds for as long as three-and-a-half years after being declared ready for discharge, it has been revealed.

The figures came to light after Darren Millar - the Welsh Conservative AM for Clwyd West – wrote to the Welsh Labour Government’s health minister Vaughan Gething AM asking for details on the longest number of bed days lost by individual patients experiencing delayed transfers of care.

Responding in a letter (see attached) Mr Gething confirmed that Hywel Dda health board is currently caring for a patient suffering from a “serious mental health condition” with “complex needs” who has now been in a hospital bed for 1,338 days.

The letter goes on to say that it is anticipated that the patient will remain in hospital for a further six months until they are able to be discharged to an appropriate provider.

The health minister also points to other health boards which have on their records individual patients who’ve been waiting for longer than a year to be discharged despite having been declared medically fit for release: Abertawe Bro Morgannwg UHB (589 days), and Cardiff and Vale health board (583 days).

In every other Welsh health board individual patients were found to be experiencing considerable delays in their transfer of care: Betsi Cadwaladr UHB (330 days), Powys UHB (218 days), Aneurin Bevan UHB (162 days), and Cwm Taf (135 days).

Reacting to the letter, Darren Millar AM said:

“These delays are truly scandalous and nothing short of inhumane. No patient should have to wait almost four years to be discharged from hospital. 

“While bed blocking is extremely costly for the NHS in Wales, the real cost is the quality of life of patients for whom it affects.

“It’s clear that a more integrated approach between the Welsh NHS and other care providers is long overdue, and I call on the Cabinet Secretary to personally intervene to resolve the cases he has highlighted immediately.”

Angela Burns AM, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Secretary, said:

“These shocking revelations are a further indictment of the Welsh Labour Government’s failure to process patients through hospitals and into community care within an acceptable timescale.

“Lengthy stays in hospital incur a huge cost on the health service, and can be obstructive to patients’ mental and physical recovery.

“Patients must be weaned off secondary care as soon as is safely possible and to achieve that requires devolving more care to a community level which will free up vital resources – including beds – across Welsh hospitals.”