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A delayed transfer of care is where a patient is ready and safe to leave hospital care, but is unable to do so, and remains occupying a hospital bed.

In 2016/17 there were 2.3 million delayed transfer days in England, an average of around 6,200 per day. The average number of delayed days for 2016/17 was 25% higher than the previous year. It is estimated that delayed transfers cost NHS providers £173 million for the previous year, up 19% from 2015/16.

Much of this increase is attributed by commentators to pressures in social care related to, for example, patients waiting for a suitable home care package to be put in place or for a residential care home place to be found. Although the majority of delayed days are still attributable to the NHS, delays attributable to local authority social care have risen by 85% over the past two years.

Efforts made by the Government to reduce the number of delayed transfers of care focus largely around the Better Care Fund, a pooled budget between local authorities and the NHS to better integrate health and social care services.

As health is a devolved area, this briefing paper refers mostly to England. However, recent trends in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also examined, as well as local and regional performance in England.

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