A&E chief is 'desperate to keep his parents out of hospital' - with hundreds dying every week because of bed-blocking

14 November 2022, 09:11

NHS hospitals are 'like a lobster trap', an A&E chief has said
NHS hospitals are 'like a lobster trap', an A&E chief has said. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Kit Heren

The top A&E doctor has said that he is "desperate" for his elderly parents to stay out of hospital this year, as it emerged that up to a third of hospital beds are occupied by patients who are fit to be discharged, leading to delays that kill hundreds of people every week.

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Some 13,000 beds are taken up by people who could leave hospital - but there are not enough places in care homes to take them.

Comparing the NHS to a "lobster trap", Dr Adrian Boyle, the new president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said the crisis is so severe that he is desperate for his parents not to need hospital treatment this winter - because he fears they would never get out.

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"Hospitals are like lobster traps – they're easy to get in to and hard to get out of," Dr Boyle told the Mail Online."If social care was able to do its job in the way we want it to, these poor people wouldn't be stranded in hospital.

"I have elderly parents and I'm desperate to keep them out of hospital.

"For someone who is frail, hospital is often a bad place for them. They're being harmed by being in hospital."

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The people left stranded in hospital are causing huge rise in A&E waits to 12 hours, long waits for ambulances and other delays, which are leading to an estimated 500 deaths per week.

The NHS workforce is underpaid and therefore inefficient

Hospitals are now running at more than 94% capacity, Dr Boyle said - nearly 10% higher than the maximum safe capacity of 85% - before winter even hits.

And fewer than seven in ten patients were seen within the four-hour target for the first time last month. Some 594,389 patients waited beyond the target in October, while 44,000 were left waiting least 12 hours to go into hospital after the admission decision had been made.

Some 13,600 beds are occupied on average by people who could leave, according to a Guardian analysis. That equates to a fifth of all beds, and a third in the the worst affected NHS trusts. North Bristol and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh.

PM Rishi Sunak visiting a hospital last month
PM Rishi Sunak visiting a hospital last month. Picture: Getty

Dr Boyle said that policymakers would have to ensure social care work is higher paid to make the sector more attractive to jobseekers.

"They have to recognise that they're competing with Amazon, Lidl and Tesco," he said.

"Moving a box around an Amazon warehouse shouldn't pay more than moving a frail, elderly woman back and forth around her own home."

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Dr Sarah McClinton, the president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Service, said earlier in November that the situation with adult social care in the UK had never been so bad.

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“The shocking situation is that we have more people requesting help from councils, more older and disabled with complex needs, yet social care capacity has reduced and we have 50,000 fewer paid carers,” she said.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: "These are challenging times and we know the coming months will see additional pressures... but patients have the right to expect the NHS to be there for them and provide the care they need when they need it. That's why we're taking urgent action to support emergency services, boosting capacity and resilience."