Understanding the causes of delays in discharging frail and elderly patients from hospital

The NHS struggles with delays in discharging patients from hospital because of problems organising the next stage of patient care. Often the people who are delayed are older and living with frailty, and are more likely to struggle after even a minor illness or a change in medication or environment.

These patients’ discharge can take longer as it often involves several different professionals and organisations. Discharge delays can cause patients and families distress, while the cost to the NHS is estimated to be £820 million a year.

Social care funding cuts are one cause of delays, but they aren’t always the cause.

There are recommended ways to improve discharge, but these aren’t always used across the NHS, and it isn’t clear why. Through engagement with staff from Southmead Hospital in Bristol, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and community staff from both areas, we want to understand why this is the case.

Project aims

The aim of this research is to find out what happens on wards in Southmead Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital that might lead to delays in discharge. It will also explore how to facilitate recommended improvements and address any barriers.

Anticipated impacts

The findings will help develop local improvements to address any barriers to effective discharge. It will also provide valuable information for policymakers and healthcare professionals across the UK who may be interested in how to reduce delays in discharge for the frail and elderly.

Lead collaborators

  • Dr Kyra Neubauer, North Bristol NHS Trust
  • Dr Zoe Wyrko, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
  • Professor Sheila Greenfield, NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands
  • Dr Gill Combes, NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands

CLAHRC West staff

Heather Brant profile photo

Dr Heather Brant

Liz Hill

Liz Hill

  • Research Project Manager
Tracey Stone

Dr Tracey Stone

Emer Brangan

Dr Emer Brangan

Nadine Murigu

  • NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in General Practice

Partners on this project

North Bristol NHS Trust

North Bristol NHS Trust is one of the largest teaching trusts in the country and serves the population of Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset. Their internationally renowned specialist areas include neurosciences, renal, orthopaedics, major trauma, urology, plastic surgery and neo-natal intensive care.

University of Bristol

The University of Bristol is internationally renowned and one of the very best in the UK, due to its outstanding teaching and research, its superb facilities and highly talented students and staff. Its students thrive in a rich academic environment which is informed by world-leading research. It hosts the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research.