Over 1,450 London hospital beds occupied by patients fit to be discharged

Thousands of patients who are fit to be discharged are occupying London hospital beds (PA Archive)
Thousands of patients who are fit to be discharged are occupying London hospital beds (PA Archive)

More than 1,450 patients who are fit to be discharged are occupying London hospital beds, it has emerged, as the country braces for strike action across the public sector this week.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will walk out in hospitals across England and Wales on Wednesday and Thursday in an ongoing dispute over pay.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on Monday morning confirmed no further negotiations were scheduled with the RCN, with Health Secretary Steve Barclay maintaining that the union's demand of a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation was "unaffordable".

Strike action on Wednesday and Thursday will affect six London NHS employers, including Kings College Hospital NHS Trust and University College Hospital Trust.

GMB leaders will also meet on Monday to decide whether to call more strikes among their ambulance members.

It comes as NHS figures revealed that an average of 1,458 London hospital beds were occupied by patients who were fit to be discharged in the week up to January 8 – a rise of 14 per cent in a month.

A total of 1,612 beds in London hospitals were occupied by patients fit for discharge on January 2 – the highest figure reported so far this winter.

The figures illustrate how many hospitals are struggling to discharge patients as many of them have nowhere else to go due to a lack of capacity in the social care system. Delayed discharges lead to gridlock in A&E as sick patients cannot be allocated a bed, which contributes to delays for ambulances attempting to hand over patients.

The number of patients waiting more than 12 hours to be admitted to A&E in London hospitals has also risen by a third in a month, according to data released on Thursday.

A total of 9,588 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in London in December from a decision to admit to actually being admitted – a jump of 34 per cent on the previous month.

Last week, ministers announced £200m of funding to buy thousands of extra care home beds. It is hoped this will speed up the discharge of hospital patients and reduce the strain on hospitals.

The RCN have warned that the next set of strikes will include all eligible members next month if progress is not made in negotiations by the end of January.

It comes as MPs prepare to debate controversial laws requiring minimum levels of service on strike days. The legislation will receive its Second Reading in Parliament on Monday.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “I hugely value the work of our NHS staff and it is disappointing some union members are going ahead with further strike action when we know the impact this has on patients.

“My number one priority remains keeping patients as safe as possible and I’ve been working closely with the NHS and across government to protect safe staffing levels.

“The NHS remains open, patients should continue to come forward for emergency and urgent medical care. They should also continue to turn up to appointments unless they have been contacted by the NHS.”