Five patients every day are taking up beds at Lincolnshire hospitals when they are actually fit to be discharged, new figures show.
The NHS data has raised concern that the delays could have a detrimental impact on the health of elderly patients who are stuck in the beds waiting to be signed off.
According to the NHS, a hospital stay of more than ten days for a person over the age of 80 can lead to ten years of muscle ageing.
The bed-blocking figures relate to hospitals run by the Lincolnshire Community Health Services (LCHS) Trust, including the John Coupland Hospital in Gainsborough.
They show that, in February, patients spent a total of 133 days waiting to be discharged, sent home or transferred to a different care facility.
A total of 85 per cent of the delays were caused by problems within the NHS, such as waiting for a bed to become available in a rehabilitation centre or mental-health hospital.
Others were caused by delays in setting up community care or special equipment at the patient’s home.
LCHS defended its policy and said it was now meeting targets. Hayley Parkin, who is the trust’s head of clinical services, said: “Our beds provide rehabilitation services that prepare patients for discharge, leading to improved outcomes for them.
“Working with partner organisations, our services effectively reduce the pressure on beds at hospitals around the county.
“Our operations centre manages and co-ordinates the capacity within our community hospital beds to maximise the flow in and out of our services.
“During the last three months, LCHS has stayed within the delayed transfer-of-care target of 3.5 per cent.”
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is urging a more joined-up approach to health and social care to tackle bed-blocking delays.
A spokesperson said: “There is too much ineffective co-ordination, leading to fragmented care for older people.”
Across England, an average of 4,546 beds were blocked each day in February, resulting in a total of 127,281 delayed days.