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'Bed blocking' forces operations to be cancelled at Tunbridge Wells Hospital

Operations have been cancelled as a result of 'bed blocking' by recovered patients unable to leave hospital.

As many as 60 inpatients have been known to be fit to leave Tunbridge Wells hospital at one time, but were unable to be discharged due to a lack of suitable accommodation either at home or in other care settings.

The Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury. Picture: Matthew Walker
The Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury. Picture: Matthew Walker

The pressure created by this additional occupancy of acute beds has forced health bosses to switch capacity from planned surgery to acute and emergency care, particularly in winter.

Not only does so-called bed blocking cause knock-on effects for other patients, but NHS England has also acknowledged longer stays in hospital for older people can lead to worse health outcomes and can increase their long-term care needs.

For people aged 80 years and over, 10 days spent in a hospital bed equates to 10 years of muscle wastage, known as ‘deconditioning’.

The extent of the challenge facing the hospital as it seeks to move recovered patients on from acute beds was revealed in a letter written by Miles Scott, chief executive of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, in support of plans for care home beds at a planned development close to the hospital.

In the submission urging the plans to be given the go-ahead, he spoke of the pressure being put on services at the Pembury-based hospital.

Miles Scott is chief executive at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust
Miles Scott is chief executive at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust

He said: "This pressure is exacerbated by having between 50 and 60 inpatients at Tunbridge Wells Hospital alone, at any one time, who are medically fit for discharge but remain in an acute hospital bed.

"In order to accommodate these levels of demand we have had to switch capacity from planned surgery to acute and emergency care, particularly in the winter. This leads to patients having to wait longer and/or travel further for their operations."

The letter, whose contents were published in a Tunbridge Wells Borough Council report for the planning committee last month, was written in July last year in support of plans for a 76-bed health and wellbeing facility to supply private nursing care and step down care to the adjacent hospital.

The planning committee resolved to grant planning permission subject to the completion of a legal agreement.

Read more: All the latest news from Tunbridge Wells


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