Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Health Services Research and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Delay in discharge and its impact on unnecessary hospital bed occupancy

Muhammad Umair Majeed1*, Dean Thomas Williams12, Rachel Pollock1, Farhat Amir1, Martin Liam1, Keen S Foong1 and Chris J Whitaker2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Vascular Surgery, Ysbyty Gwynedd Hospital, Bangor, LL57 2PW, UK

2 School of Medical Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, LL57 2UW, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:410  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-410

Published: 20 November 2012



Elderly patients are potentially more vulnerable to prolonged hospital stay as they frequently require additional resources to facilitate their discharge. In an acute hospital setting, we aimed to quantify and compare length of stay (LOS) for all patients over and under the age of 65, and identify the number and cause of days lost under the care of a single surgical unit.


Over a 4 month period from January to April 2010, data on the management and source of potential delay was collected daily on consecutive patients admitted and discharged under the care of one consultant surgeon at a district general hospital. Statistical analysis was then performed with particular focus on actual delays affecting elderly patients.


A total of 99 complete inpatients episodes were recorded. There were 30 elective and 69 acute admissions. 10 (33%) elective vs. 42 (61%) acute patients encountered delays, losing 39 and 232 days respectively (χ2 [1, N = 99] = 6.36, p = .012). 23 of a total 39 elderly patients admitted acutely required specialist care of the elderly opinion and placement in community hospitals resulting in delays of 188 days. vs. 36 days for the 16 discharged home and 8 days for 30 patients under 65 (χ2 (2, N = 69) = 26.54, p = <.001).


Elderly patients experiencing acute surgical admission and discharge to community hospitals had prolonged LOS due to significant delays associated with care of the elderly provision. The financial considerations behind bed capacity in primary and secondary care and the provision of care of elderly services need to be balanced against unnecessary occupancy of acute hospital beds with its associated health and economic implications.

Surgery; Elderly; Length of stay; Bed occupancy; Community care