Staffing shortages can fuel increased discharge delays

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Too many seniors are in hospitals who should not be, Morse says.
Too many seniors are in hospitals who should not be, Morse says.

Providers feeling the pinch of a nursing shortage only need look across the Atlantic to see the possible consequences of being understaffed.

Patient discharge delays throughout the British healthcare industry have been linked to a nearly 15% staffing shortage in nursing and home care facilities, a study finds.

Over the past two years, the number of days that patients spent in the hospital due to delayed discharges increased 31%, according to the National Audit Office. Researchers noted the rate included only patients who had been approved for discharge by clinicians, not all patients who no longer needed care. 

The NAO also said a lack of senior care training, as well as inefficiencies in sharing patients' medical records, contributed to the delays.

The unnecessary stays cost providers the equivalent of about $1.18 billion.

“The number of delayed transfers has been increasing at an alarming rate but does not capture the true extent of older people who should not be in a hospital,” Auditor General Amyas Morse, KCB, said. 

The NAO recommended officials formulate a plan to minimize delays without releasing patients before they are fit to be discharged.

“Without radical action, this problem will worsen and add further strain to the financial sustainability of [National Health Services,]” Morse added. n