Despite hospitals being so full that it puts patient care at risk, nearly a third of beds were taken up by patients who would not have needed it if their care was better managed.
A report shows hospitals are full to the point that patient care is suffering, but almost 12% of emergency hospital admissions were patients who should not have needed it if their conditions were well managed.
Annual figures on hospital performance published by the NHS watchdog Dr Foster found hospitals are so full, with most hospitals over 90% full for 48 weeks of the year, that staff are struggling to keep patients safe.
And yet 11.9% of hospital beds were emergency admissions that could have been avoided if their conditions were better managed and should have been treatable out of hospital.
The report said:
Hospitals are under pressure from the rising numbers of emergency admissions, particularly among frail elderly patients.
Nearly one-third of hospital beds are taken by patients who might not have needed them if their care was better managed. More than 10 per cent of beds are occupied by people with a condition that should not require emergency hospitalisation; conditions which, if well-managed, are treatable in the community.
The report also found that if hospitals keep putting cost over quality of care, then it is a warning that will lead to higher mortality rates:
As many as 1,200 patients are feared to have died needlessly at the trust between 2005 and 2009 due to poor care and medical errors.
With the rising demand for care and falling revenues, there are concerns that trusts will focus more (or exclusively) on cost of care rather than quality of care.
A report by Capgemini for the Communities and Local Government department in 2009 showed that £258.7 million spent on housing-related support in sheltered housing for older people produced £1.1 billion of benefits, including savings in social care and health.
The worry is that with further cuts to the social sector, this will drive up hospital admissions even further, which in turn costs more to the NHS for the hospital admission and then the care that is required after this, instead of the initial funding to prevent the condition reaching emergency level.
Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of The Patients Association, said:
The Government must consider the devastating impact its £20 billion efficiency drive is having on the number of hospital beds, at a time when we have an aging population and rising admissions.
Moving forward care, particularly for the elderly, must be better integrated so that when appropriate it can take place in home and community settings.
Jane Ashcroft, chief executive of Anchor, believes that joining up services is the way to help this, which has been suggested by the government but does not seem to come in to effect. She said that housing associations can help keep people out of hospital:
There is a large body of evidence showing that retirement housing with low level support provided by a dedicated scheme manager helps to keep older people healthier for longer.
The government talks about joining up services but we are not seeing the progress we need. The reality is that funding for preventative local services is constantly under pressure. Much more could be achieved by joining up housing, care and health effectively and Anchor has been urging the government to do that.
See full report by Dr Foster.