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15.04.19

200 patients waiting to be discharged died in hospital in 2018 and millions waited unnecessarily

More than 200 patients have died in Northern Ireland’s hospitals in 2017-18 whilst waiting to be discharged, and over a million spent unnecessary days in hospital, Marie Curie has revealed.

A report by the terminal illness charity showed that delayed discharges resulted in patients spending thousands of extra days in hospital beds every month after being declared fit to leave.

Over 46,000 hospital bed days were wasted in 2017-18, and 204 patients died whilst waiting to be discharged died in hospital across Northern Ireland trusts, with some dying of terminal illnesses and others of natural causes.

Meanwhile in England, Marie Curie found that patients spent 1.7 million unnecessary days in hospital in 2018 – and last month’s figures also showed a 5% rise in delayed transfer days.

In both cases, Marie Curie found that shortages in care home spaces and community care packages were the main reasons behind the delayed discharges.

The report also highlighted that for patients who have a terminal illness, being stuck in hospital when they would rather be cared for at home or in the community can “have a huge impact on their quality of life.”

Joan McEwan, head of policy and public affairs for Marie Curie Northern Ireland, said: “Most terminally ill people want to spend the time they have left being cared for at home or in the community.

“It is unacceptable that pressures in community care and challenges such as delays in getting equipment or making adaptations are preventing this from happening. These patients are uniquely impacted by delayed discharges from hospital because time is a luxury they don’t have.”

McEwan warned that Northern Ireland’s population is predicted to keep getting older and more susceptible to illness, so “urgent solutions are required if want to prevent even more vulnerable patients being stuck in hospital beds when they shouldn’t be.”

Marie Curie has called for the return of political institutions in Northern Ireland so the “major systemic challenges” facing the health service can be addressed.

Scott Sinclair, head of policy and public affairs at Marie Curie, said: “Right now thousands of people are stuck in hospital when they don’t want or need to be there. Many will die there.

“While hospital staff do a brilliant job, we must do more to honour people’s dying wishes and, overwhelmingly, we know most people’s wish is to be at home. Any delay in getting someone out of hospital is a waste of time that a dying person and their family doesn’t have.”

Image credit - gorodenkoff

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