The number of hospital beds in Bucks “blocked” by delayed discharges has fallen in recent months – despite increased demand on health services over the winter.

In December last year the number of hospital bed days that were delayed in the county was 964 – compared with 1,241 days in November.

Delayed discharges can happen when patients are waiting for appropriate care, support or accommodation arrangements to be put in place.

Chief executive of the Bucks Clinical Commissioning Group, Louise Patten, said delayed discharges can impact on patients’ health, causing them to lose muscle mass, reducing their independence.

She added that increasing numbers of patients with complex cases, such as long-term health conditions, can contribute to increased “bed blocking”.

Mrs Patten said: “Delayed transfer of care refers to those patients who are in an acute hospital beds that no longer need acute hospital care.

“They are either awaiting to go home or to go to additional support such as other NHS funded support or care home or local authority at home support.

“If you are in a hospital bed for longer than you need it is not very good for your health. You lose your muscle mass and therefore you use your ability to do things you would normally do independently.

“We have also learnt that people may have a package of care that is given to them on assessment just as they are about to leave hospital, but actually once they are home they do improve quite quickly and they are suddenly up and able to do things by themselves because they are at home so they are helping themselves to become more independent.

“So a second rather prompt assessment of what they need once they are home usually results in a significant reduction of the size of the package previously offered.”

Director of strategy and business development at Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust, David Williams, said work has been undertaken to “accelerate” patients who are ready to leave hospital back to their homes or next stage of care.

Speaking at a meeting of Bucks County Council’s health and wellbeing board, Mr Williams said: “The patient has an expected date of discharge and the work that we have done this year is accelerate those patients that need to be discharged back home.

“We have an executive director weekly call looking at those patients across the system and seeing if we can do something quicker.”