Are longer hospital stays to blame for the biggest death rate increase in 50 years?
A study of death counts suggests that an increase in the number of delayed discharges can be linked to a spike in national mortality rates.
The authors of a study published in the British Medical Journal(BMJ) compared monthly death count data from the Office for National Statistics with NHS England’s delayed discharge data.
Between July 2014 and June 2015, there were an additional 39,075 deaths in England and Wales compared with the previous year. This represents the largest increase in mortality for nearly 50 years. Both 2016 and 2017 also saw similar mortality rates, and this stands out in the 20th and 21st centuries because mortality rates have been generally declining. Most of the additional deaths were of frail elderly people.
The study’s authors, from Glasgow, Liverpool, Oxford and York universities, say they have shown that the increased rate of delayed discharges, as well as the length of delay, can be linked to the number of deaths and mortality rate.
The Guardian collected responses to the conclusions from experts in emergency care and in care of older people. This report comments that the NHS has blamed a shortage of social care places, while local authority leaders are saying that government austerity cuts have made it impossible to provide enough social care.