Doctors find transfers to social care main winter pressure point, according to RCP poll

Almost 80% of hospital doctors say delays to transferring patients out of hospital is the main pressure point this winter, according to a poll conducted by the RCP.

By far the biggest issue is transferring people to social care – 69% said that was the main pressure point. A further 10% said the same about transferring people to community NHS services.

Some 75% said they haven’t seen any evidence that the government’s emergency funding for social care is improving the situation. But some have and say they have seen a reduction in delays to moving people out of hospital.

The RCP asked its 36,000 members and fellows for their experiences this winter. Of the 1,466 who responded, 995 said ‘transfer of care to social care services’ is the main pressure point, 9.9% (144 respondents) said ‘transfer of care to community NHS services’ and only 3.8% (55) said that they ‘have no problem discharging patients’.

Some 75% said they haven’t seen any evidence that the government’s emergency funding for social care is improving the situation.

RCP president Professor Andrew Goddard said: 

Our survey provides a snapshot of the difficulties faced by doctors this winter, especially when they try to transfer patients to more appropriate settings and free-up badly needed hospital beds. It is only by ensuring that social care gets the resources it urgently needs that we can really reduce pressure on hospitals and give our over-worked doctors a break.

Referring to the announcement earlier this year that the government would be providing emergency funding for social care, the poll asked, ‘Have you seen evidence that it has reduced the pressure on your hospital, for example by reducing delayed transfers of care?’ Just over 3% (46) said that they had, 21.9% (318) answered ‘Don’t Know’ and 75% (1090) said that they hadn’t seen any evidence of a reduction in pressure.

The results of the poll underline, once again, doctors’ commitment to their work, with just over 14% (207) saying that they  had to miss a significant event with family or friends over the festive period because they had to work unexpectedly. Such events included birthdays, weddings and holidays as well as being at home on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and at New Year.

The RCP has also published The realities of winter: discussing the impact of pressures on NHS staff and patients, a blog featuring first hand accounts of the realities of life in the NHS during winter.  

Notes to editors

The RCP conducted its poll of fellows and members from 23–29 January 2019. In total, 1,466 UK foundation doctors, trainees, consultants, and Specialty and Associate Specialist (SAS) doctors responded. This is the second of three short surveys to be conducted this winter; the third to follow in March.

Full survey questions can be found below:

[1] What is currently the main pressure point experienced by your team when discharging patients from your service?

  • transfer of care to social care services
  • transfer of care to community NHS services
  • transfer of care to another service in your organisation
  • waiting for transport
  • waiting for diagnostic services
  • waiting for pharmacy services
  • other
  • we have no problem discharging patients

[2] Did you have to miss a significant event with family or friends over the festive period because you had to work unexpectedly?

  • Yes (If yes, what was the event? Please feel free to tell us about the impact)
  • No

[3] Earlier this year the government announced emergency funding for social care. Have you seen evidence that it has reduced the pressure on your hospital, for example by reducing delayed transfers of care?

  • Yes (If yes, how has it reduced the pressure?)
  • No
  • Don’t know