House of Commons Library

Delayed transfers of care in the NHS

Published Tuesday, June 20, 2017

This House of Commons Library briefing paper looks at policy and statistical trends on delayed transfers of care - patients who are well enough to leave hospital but are unable to do so - in the NHS.

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A delayed transfer of care is where a patient is ready and safe to leave hospital care, but is unable to do so, and remains occupying a hospital bed.

In 2016/17 there were 2.3 million delayed transfer days in England, an average of around 6,200 per day. The average number of delayed days for 2016/17 was 25% higher than the previous year. It is estimated that delayed transfers cost NHS providers £173 million for the previous year, up 19% from 2015/16.

Much of this increase is attributed by commentators to pressures in social care related to, for example, patients waiting for a suitable home care package to be put in place or for a residential care home place to be found. Although the majority of delayed days are still attributable to the NHS, delays attributable to local authority social care have risen by 85% over the past two years.

Efforts made by the Government to reduce the number of delayed transfers of care focus largely around the Better Care Fund, a pooled budget between local authorities and the NHS to better integrate health and social care services.

As health is a devolved area, this briefing paper refers mostly to England. However, recent trends in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also examined, as well as local and regional performance in England.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7415

Author: Alex Bate

Topics: Community care, Health finance, Health services

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