Our journalism needs your support! Become a member
The Bristol Cable

Social care crisis leaves healthy patients stuck in Bristol’s hospitals

The lack of carers in the city is down to poor pay, Brexit, competition from the likes of Amazon and increasingly unaffordable housing.


Scores of patients in hospitals in Bristol and Weston-super-Mare are medically fit but cannot be discharged due to a shortage of community carers.

Hospital boss Robert Woolley said: “We’ve got 5% of beds occupied by Covid-infected patients. Crucially, we’ve got about 20% of our beds occupied by patients who are medically fit for discharge. They don’t need to still be in a hospital bed.”

The University Hospitals Bristol and Weston Trust declared an internal critical incident throughout October, with unprecedented demand for urgent care and the poor flow out of hospital continuing to affect performance. 

More than half of all ambulance handovers were delayed by more than 30 minutes – worse than at any other time during the pandemic – and almost 600 patients waited on trolleys for more than 12 hours before they were treated.

At the end of October some 187 patients had been waiting more than two years for treatment, although most were lower clinical priority and deemed safer to wait longer.

Woolley apologised for the resulting delays and cancellations and appealed for the public to play its part by accessing care wisely. 

Updating the hospital trust board on 30 November, Woolley said: “Our A&E department is at pre-pandemic levels but we’re finding that patients are presenting later than they would have done so their conditions are potentially more serious and complex, and our capacity is severely constrained.”

At the end of October there were 97 patients medically fit for discharge in the trust’s Bristol hospitals and 48 at Weston General. 

“This is creating significant delays for patients trying to come into hospital, it’s creating cancellations,” Wooley added. 

“The reason our beds are occupied in the way they are is largely because of workforce shortages in the community and social care. 

Bristol’s head of adult social care, Stephen Beet, said in October that staff shortages in social care were the worst they have ever been, which were leaving some care homes and home care providers struggling to provide care.

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning

“The end of lockdown means that other services are offering work,” Beet said. “So we’ve got much greater competition from places like Amazon and big supermarkets where pay is better, or there’s greater incentive.”

“Brexit’s another factor. And generally just poor pay and lack of development opportunities perceived in the care sector that’s not drawing people into it. And it’s hard work. These are tough jobs.

Wooley said he expected the winter to be a difficult one, as it always is. “We’re facing the unknown impact of Covid this winter, particularly in light of the new Omicron variant. We don’t know how influenza is going to play out.

“Our ask of the general public is to continue to access the care you need but do so wisely, make use of NHS 111, only use emergency departments for serious injury or illness. We ask for your understanding about the delays and the pressures on our staff.”


Post a comment

Mark if this comment is from the author of the article

By posting a comment you agree to our Comment Policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related content

“We’re expected to carry our babies while we also carry the burden of the statistics”

With black women four times more likely to die during pregnancy, the Black Maternity Matters pilot project launches in Bristol to address disparities in maternal healthcare.

Bristol mental health patients are still being sent miles from home. How are local services trying to eliminate the damaging practice?

The city’s mental health trust is failing to stop out of area placements, but it's an uphill battle amid high demand for treatment, limited funding and staffing shortages.

Revealed: Parents taking legal action over mistreatment of son at special needs school

A former worker has also shed light on what happened before St Christopher's closed in 2019 and police investigated child cruelty.

‘Women’s health in a man’s world’: One in ten women have endometriosis, but their pain is still ignored

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, so three women from a Bristol support group have come forward to talk about their experiences of the debilitating condition.

NHS waiting times for trans people in Bristol skyrocket during Covid

We talk to trans women in Bristol who are waiting for urgent hormones, mental health treatment and surgery.

Revealed: Bristol Mind loses core mental health service it has run for 25 years

Whistleblowers from the advocacy service, which has now transferred to new providers, allege mismanagement by the board of trustees.

Join our newsletter

Get the essential stories you won’t find anywhere else

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter to get our weekly round-up direct to your inbox every Saturday

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning