MORE THAN 600 patients have been cleared to leave hospital this Christmas – but can’t leave because alternative arrangements have not been put in place.

More than 90 per cent of these people are elderly. Figures obtained by Home and Community Care Ireland (HCCI) show that 618 patients could remain in hospital over Christmas despite being cleared to leave by a senior doctor.

It says that almost 90 per cent of these people are elderly patients over 65 who cannot leave as alternative arrangements have not been put in place.

The HCCI said that according to the HSE’s own calculation “each night in a hospital bed costs between €800-900″.

By the HSE’s own reckoning, this conservatively estimates the waste in excess of €525,000 per night or the equivalent of 25,000 hours of home care.

HCCI said that the main reasons for the delay include people waiting for home help, a home care package, approval for nursing home care under the Fair Deal scheme, access to a rehabilitation facility, or equipment from the HSE.

Michael Harty, chair of HCCI, described the figures as “shocking”, saying that the HSE “is wasting over €500,000 per night on delayed discharges” and that “this year’s public health spending will require an additional budget of €199m”.

It suggested that the government “needs to act now to ensure that elderly, frail people can access appropriate funding and return home from hospital as soon as possible when they are fit do so”.

HCCI recommend an end to the ring-fencing of one type of care over another and increased home care funding to enable faster discharge. It says this could save millions each year and free up much-needed resources to safeguard frontline services.

“More importantly, it could also help elderly, dependent people to live longer at home and prevent unnecessary admission in the first place,” said HCCI.