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Bed Blocking in the NHS and Why it’s a Problem

4 minute read

Bed Blocking in the NHS and Why it’s a Problem

Bed blocking is a significant challenge for the NHS, where medically fit patients remain in hospital beds, causing strain on resources and increased costs. However, technology offers a powerful solution to alleviate this issue and transform healthcare delivery.

Learn more about it below.


Understanding Bed Blocking

Bed blocking can result from various factors, including delays in arranging social care, difficulties in finding suitable residential care facilities, or inadequate community support for patients who need to be discharged. It can also be affected by delayed discharge. This bottleneck situation not only disrupts hospital operations but also adversely affects patients' health outcomes.

The Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson said "Evidence clearly shows that hospitals work most safely and effectively at bed occupancy levels no higher than 85%." as stated in NHS Providers.

The average occupancy rate for all beds open overnight during Quarter 4 of 2022/23 stood at 89.8%, surpassing the safety benchmark of 85%. This persistent trend of exceeding the benchmark since 2011 calls for immediate action to improve the situation and prevent further strain on the NHS. 

Bed Blocking Stats


4 Impacts of Bed Blocking

  1. Strained Healthcare Resources: When beds are occupied by patients who no longer require hospital care, there is a reduced capacity to admit new patients promptly, leading to longer waiting times and compromising the quality of care provided.

  2. Increased Costs: The longer patients remain in hospital beds unnecessarily, the higher the financial burden on the NHS. Bed blocking contributes to escalating healthcare costs, ultimately affecting the healthcare budget.

  3. Adverse Health Outcomes: Extended stays in hospitals increase the risk of hospital-acquired infections, functional decline, and psychological distress for patients. It is vital to transition patients to appropriate care settings as soon as medically feasible.

  4. Staff Burnout: Hospital staff face additional challenges when dealing with overcrowded facilities and limited resources. This situation can lead to increased stress and burnout among healthcare professionals.


How to Leverage Apps for a Solution

Technology has the potential to transform healthcare and offer innovative solutions to address bed blocking. Apps at the bedside can play a particularly important role by facilitating streamlined communication, creating efficient care coordination, and empowering patients and their families to actively participate in the discharge process.

  1. Enhanced Communication and Collaboration: Bedside apps streamline communication between healthcare professionals, improving coordination and reducing discharge delays.

  2. Real-time Bed Management: Bedside apps can provide real-time information about bed availability in various units or facilities within the hospital. This enables medical staff to quickly identify and allocate appropriate beds for incoming patients, minimising waiting times and preventing unnecessary bed occupancy.

  3. Integration with Electronic Health Records (EHRs): Integrating bedside apps with the hospital's EHR system allows healthcare providers to access up-to-date patient information, medical history, and test results. This comprehensive view of the patient's health status aids in making informed decisions about their discharge eligibility.
    Patient Using Horizon
  4. Patient and Family Engagement: Bedside apps can empower patients and their families by providing them with access to further care resources. Companies like Autumna make it easier to find further care for the elderly. Informed patients are more likely to actively participate in their care planning and take necessary steps toward a timely discharge.

  5. Remote Consultations: Bedside apps with virtual consultation capabilities can connect patients to medical staff. This saves staff time traveling around hospital sites and can aid the speed of the discharge process and therefore help reduce bed blocking.

All of these app capabilities can be delivered through SPARK® Horizon, a cutting-edge wall mounted bedside unit tablet that revolutionizes patient care. With its sleek design and user-friendly interface, SPARK® Horizon provides seamless access to a wide range of apps, tailored to meet the specific needs of each NHS Trust.

If Horizon can contribute to even a 1% reduction in bed blocking, it would be a significant stride towards resolving the issue. While there may not be a single solution for bed blocking, Horizon plays a crucial role in tackling this challenge.



The issue of bed blocking in the NHS is a complex and multi-faceted challenge that demands urgent attention. Embracing technology and integrating innovative solutions into healthcare practices can significantly alleviate bed blocking and its adverse effects on both patients and the healthcare system.

Investing in Horizon Bedside Units will help take Trusts that one step further in tackling the bed blocking issue. 


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