A BIG increase in patients stuck in the region’s hospitals after they are ready to go home exposes a “crisis in care”, it is claimed today (Wednesday, July 30).

The number of “delayed days” – spent in hospital beds, because patients cannot be discharged – has leapt by almost 15 per cent in just 12 months, new figures show.

That rise masks huge increases in some areas, particularly in County Durham (up 79.6 per cent), Redcar and Cleveland (up 47 per cent), Stockton-on-Tees (up 140.2 per cent) and Hartlepool (up 355.4 per cent).

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In North Yorkshire (up 13.6 per cent) and York (up 12.9 per cent), the increases were smaller.

Liz Kendall, Labour’s care spokeswoman, said many delayed discharges were caused by a “lack of NHS services in the community”, blaming cuts to district nurses and community matrons.

But she also pointed to the “record levels” of patients stuck on hospital wards because there was no social care available for them in their own homes.

And she put the cost of the delays nationwide at £247m a year – money which could have paid for more than 35,000 people to receive home care, or for nearly 6,000 nurses.

Ms Kendall said: “These figures are a stark illustration of the pressure that hospitals are under and the crisis in care that has developed under David Cameron.

“Fewer elderly people are now receiving the vital services that help them get up, washed, dressed and fed so they can stay living independently at home.

“This isn’t good for them and it’s a false economy too, as increasing numbers of frail elderly people are ending up trapped in more expensive hospital beds when they don’t need to be.”

The figures cover delays after acute care only, involving surgery after severe injuries or illnesses, or to treat urgent medical conditions.

But Lesley Jeavons, head of adult care at Durham County Council, said: “It is not the case in County Durham that problems with social care are leading to large numbers of patients having to remain in hospital longer than is necessary.

“Figures show that social care issues are a factor in significantly fewer cases of delayed discharges from hospital in County Durham than compared to the regional and national average.”

The Northern Echo attempted to ask County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust about the figures, but no-one was available.

Across England, there were 80,012 acute delayed days in June, up from 69,457 a year earlier – a rise of 15.2 per cent. There were 907,000 in the 12 month period.

However, some areas bucked the trend. There was a decline in “delayed days” in both Gateshead (down 47.9 per cent) and Sunderland (66.1 per cent).

According to the department of health, each excess bed day costs £273, Labour said – compared with the £13.37 average cost of an hour of home care

The figures were released amid growing alarm over a predicted £30bn ‘black hole’ in the NHS’s finances over the next five years.

Meanwhile, local councils have warned they will be unable to meet the social care costs of an ageing population in the years to come, with savage grant cuts set to continue.