Understanding what causes delays in discharging frail and elderly patients from hospital

Problems organising the next stage of care mean that there are often delays in discharging elderly and frail patients from hospital. These delays can be upsetting for patients and families, and the cost to the NHS is around £820 million a year.

People who are elderly and frail 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.

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

There are recommended ways to reduce delays, but these aren’t always used across the NHS. We are working with staff from Southmead Hospital in Bristol, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and community staff from both areas to understand why this is the case.

Project aims

We want to find out what happens on wards in these hospitals that might lead to delays in discharge. We will also explore how to facilitate the recommended improvements and address any barriers to adopting them.

Anticipated impacts

The findings will help improve the process of discharging frail and elderly patients from the participating hospitals. It will also provide valuable information for policymakers and healthcare professionals across the UK who may be interested in how to reduce discharge delays for these patients.

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.