Scandal of bed blocking hitting Preston's hospital services
There are 55 patients who are fit to be discharged taking up beds each day at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, figures show.
With elderly patients often stuck waiting to be signed off, there is concern over the impact delays can have on their health.
According to the NHS, a hospital stay of more than 10 days for a person over 80 can lead to 10 years of muscle ageing.
NHS England figures show that in February, patients at the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust spent a total of 1,547 days waiting to be discharged or transferred to a different care facility.That's equivalent to more than four years of waiting time.
A delayed transfer of care occurs when a patient remains in a bed after being officially declared safe for transfer by both a doctor and a multidisciplinary team, which could include social or mental health care workers.
The figures show that 71 per cent of the delays were caused by problems with social care, like delays in setting up community care or special equipment at home.
A further 22 per cent were caused by problems within the NHS, such as waiting for a bed to open up in a rehabilitation centre or mental health hospital.
The rest of the delays were due to problems in both sectors.
Delays in transferring a patient between wards, or from one acute hospital to another, are not included.
Independent healthcare charity the King's Fund said that could be many more people who were safe to leave hospital but had not been officially signed off.
The Care Quality Commission said that it recommends a more joined-up approach to health and social care to tackle delays.
A CQC spokesperson said: "There is too much ineffective coordination of local health and care services - leading to fragmented care for older people.
"Our measures would reflect the contribution of all health and care organisations, rather than relying primarily on information collected by acute hospitals."
Across England, an average of 4,546 beds were blocked each day in February, resulting in a total of 127,281 delayed days – equivalent to just under 350 years of lost time.
The rate peaked in February 2017, when 6,660 beds were lost to bed blocking each day, but has fallen steadily since then. Last year, it was 5,013 per day.
At Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, bed blocking has fallen, from 67 beds each day in February 2018 to 55 this year.
An NHS England spokesperson said: “Thanks to better joint working between hospitals and social care teams, thousands more people were able to return home with the right support quicker after a spell in hospital this winter, freeing up hundreds of beds every day for other patients who need hospital care.”