A Salisbury District Hospital patient who claims to be fit enough to go home is “desperate” to leave hospital and “frustrated” about delays to her discharge.

Sarah Iselin, 57, underwent surgery to rebuild her broken and displaced ankle around six to seven weeks ago.

Two weeks later, she says she was “signed as fit” by staff in the orthopaedic ward but as of this morning (January 13), she is still being cared for as an inpatient.

The hospital says patients are normally discharged as quickly as possible when it is clinically safe to do so.

But the former secondary school teacher claims hold-ups are a result of communication between NHS departments being “rubbish”.

She told the Journal: “I’m taking up a bed, I’m in everybody’s way, I’m just desperate to go home.

“I’m quite sympathetic with the NHS, doctors and nurses are working flat out but communication between departments is rubbish.”

In order for Mrs Iselin to be discharged, a care package needs to be arranged so she can continue to receive the care she needs from her home in Netheravon.

This includes arrangements for a carer to visit her three times a day and for a hoist to be fitted in her house, which she says is already in place.

However, as Mrs Iselin is diabetic and needs dialysis three times a week, in the past 10 days there have been problems working out a suitable time for her to be discharged based on the treatment she is receiving at the hospital, she says. 

Although she understands it was difficult for staff to send her home due to complications out of their control, she argues there have been “plenty of opportunities” for her to be discharged in the weeks before that.

“This was just this week, what happened all the other weeks?

“This is now the fifth week so I could’ve gone home a month ago. I can still go to dialysis from home but I’m stuck here.

“I’m totally frustrated and I find it tormenting because I’m told I’m going home and I’m not and I feel frustrated by the lack of organisation.”

As hospital staff face increasing pressure due to the number of Covid-19 patients onsite, Mrs Iselin is concerned there will soon be a shortage of beds.

Because of her conditions, she is keen to leave hospital to get away from the risk of potentially catching coronavirus. 

Equally, she is keen to free up a hospital bed at such a critical time for the NHS.

“I’m very grateful to the staff for the care they’ve been giving me but all this bed-blocking is ridiculous,” she said. 

Salisbury District Hospital are unable to comment on Mrs Iselin’s situation due to patient confidentiality but say clinical needs are often one of the reasons that can cause delays to the process of discharging patients.

Care discharge problem 'goes back a long time'

Patients well enough to go home sometimes taking up hospital beds is an ongoing issue which goes back “a long time”, according to the chair of the representative body of the British Medical Association (BMA).

Dr Helena McKeown, who used to practice in Salisbury, said: “Most people have to pay for social care, not everybody, but it’s not like NHS care.

“The Government promised to solve this last November and it didn’t. Boris Johnson has recognised it’s going back a long time and almost everybody will have to pay for part of their care package.”

Pledges have been made by Governments of all colours to fix the issue, but to no avail. 

In Wiltshire, Dr McKeown says the process of finding suitable care packages is made even more difficult by a shortage of carers.

She said: “Sometimes there physically aren’t enough people to do that kind of job three/four times a day. In Salisbury that’s often the problem.

“It’s difficult to find staff at the best of times, with Covid it’s even worse because some people could be off because of Covid or they could be shielding because they’re clinically vulnerable so [Covid] has exacerbated an issue that we already had.”

The Department for Health and Social Care has responded to calls for more funding. It said in March, £1.3 billion was made available via the NHS to support the process of discharging patients. This is in addition to an extra £588 million confirmed in July to continue “enhanced discharge arrangements” over the winter.

A spokesperson from the department said: “The NHS and social care systems are working closely together to ensure that patients are discharged as quickly and safely as possible.”