More than 200 patients died in Northern Ireland’s hospitals in 2018 while waiting to be discharged, Marie Curie has revealed.
The terminal illness charity has released a report that shows that discharge delays resulted in patients spending thousands of extra days in hospital.
This is despite patients being declared ready to go home.
Some of the patients had a terminal illness, while others were reaching the natural end of their lives.
But instead of being cared for at home or in the community, the report says 204 people were stuck in hospital and eventually died there.
Marie Curie found that the biggest contributing factor to the discharge delays was lack of domiciliary care packages, which accounted for nearly 13,000 delayed bed days across the health service last year.
Hospital care planning issues also accounted for over 10,000 delayed days, while shortage of care home beds resulted in 7,775 delayed days.
Joan McEwan, head of Policy and Public Affairs for Marie Curie Northern Ireland, said: “The local population is getting older and we’re seeing more and more people living with terminal illnesses and complex needs. Not only is this resulting in greater numbers of hospital admissions, it is also putting massive additional pressure on community care, which is vital in helping the safe and prompt discharge of patients back home.
“Most terminally ill people want to spend the time they have left being cared for at home or in the community. It is unacceptable that pressures in community care and challenges such as delays in getting equipment or making adaptations are preventing this from happening.
“In the years ahead, Northern Ireland’s population is predicted to keep getting older and, unfortunately, sicker, so urgent solutions are required if we want to prevent even more vulnerable patients being stuck in hospital beds when they shouldn’t be.”
Marie Curie have called for the return of the political institutions in Northern Ireland so that the major systemic challenges facing the health service can be addressed and for Stormont officials to scope out new funding measures for adult social care, as well as the introduction of longer-term budgets for Health Trusts.