Delayed patient discharges cost 110,000 bed days over six months

HSE data shows €200m wasted yearly over lack of step-down care, says Sinn Féin TD

Nearly 110,000 hospital bed days have been lost because of delayed discharges in the first six months of this year, new figures show.

The Health Service Executive has confirmed that an average of 18,350 bed days were lost each month because of approximately 630 delayed discharges every month.

Patients are classified as delayed discharges when they no longer need to be cared for in an acute hospital setting but have no access to appropriate step-down care.

The number of bed days lost has been higher every month this year than each corresponding month for the past three years without exception.


For example, in May of this year 19,486 bed days were lost in comparison to 17,539 at the same time last year, 16,964 in May of 2017 and 17,208 in 2016.

Despite the number of delayed discharges, the Government has insisted there has been no freeze on the availability of home-help hours. As of the end of June, 7,217 people were waiting on home support packages across the country, up 398 since the end of May.

The figures were revealed by the HSE in a letter to Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly.

Home help

“Delayed discharges happen when patients are clinically fit for discharge from an acute bed but because of a lack of home help or a nursing home bed they cannot be discharged,” she said.

“This practice constitutes one of the biggest financial wastes of money and resources in the health service and has cost the health service nearly €600 million since 2016.

“Hundreds of millions of euro are being wasted unnecessarily by forcing these patients to remain in acute hospital beds. Delayed discharges also keep sick patients out of beds and further delays care, is a contributory factor to emergency department overcrowding, adversely affects patient flow throughout the hospital, and is incredibly unfair on the patients who are ready to be discharged,” she added.

"Simon Harris and Paul Reid should be focusing on tackling this macro issue which costs the HSE close to €200 million each year," she said.

In total, there have been 3,675 delayed discharges from all HSE hospitals between January and June this year.

Worst hospitals

The highest figures were in Dublin's St James's Hospital, Tallaght University Hospital, the Mater hospital, Beaumont and at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

Speaking earlier this year, the Minister of State for Older People Jim Daly insisted there has been no freeze on the provision of home-help hours . "There is no freeze to home help. There are no cuts to home help," he said.

According to the information released to Ms O'Reilly, the highest number of bed days lost was in St James's Hospital. A total of 12,333 bed days were lost there, an average of more than 2,000 every month. In Beaumont Hospital, 11,459 days were lost, an average of 1,900 a month.

These figures come a short time after it emerged that the number of people waiting for a nursing home place under the State’s Fair Deal scheme jumped by a sixth in just three weeks.

Fair Deal is the name given to the Nursing Home Support Scheme which finances long-term care for many older people. It costs the State just over €1 billion each year.

The number of elderly people waiting for a Fair Deal nursing home place jumped from 729 to 846 in the three weeks from June 7th.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times