A WREXHAM patient was forced to wait more than a year to be sent home from hospital, according to a report revealing extensive delays.

The 368-day hold-up faced by a patient at Chirk Community Hospital was the longest discovered by a health watchdog during a wider investigation into community hospitals.

The North Wales Community Health Council (CHC) carried out unnanounced visits at the region's 14 community hospitals during the spring and summer.

It has now higlighted serious concerns over bed capacity, staffing levels and extended lengths of stay and is calling for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to take action.

It said the delays were also caused by the amount of time taken to carry out care and nursing home assessments, as well as long waits for social workers to be allocated.

In response, the health board said the details of the Chirk patient's stay did not match its records, but the CHC has stood by the figures, adding that they were gathered from staff on the day of inspection.

In the report, it said: "Delayed transfers of care is increasingly a factor in the stress on community hospitals.

"We see little evidence of progress being made in the NHS and social services tackling this problem together – despite legislation.

"There is a difference across the 14 community hospitals as to when the process of discharging patients begins.

"We were also told that there can be huge delays if patients are admitted to hospital from residential home or nursing homes.

"The original allocation of a social worker being appointed to a patient on admission to hospital appears to have drastically changed with social services in some areas only taking referrals when a patient is deemed “medically fit” – it can then take two to three weeks to complete discharge arrangements."

An earlier inspection in 2016 showed problems in finding residential care for patients in Chirk, while nursing home provision was described as 'virtually non-existent'.

The 2018 report also draws attention to a wait of 270 days for a patient to be discharged from Ysbyty Alltwen in Gwynedd, as well as a ward in Llandudno Hospital which had 15 patients waiting to be sent home.

Half of the hospitals had bed closures when the surveys were carried out.

The 14 community hospitals had the potential to hold 521 beds, but on the days of inspection only 442 were in use.

The community health council added: "Staffing levels remain a very real concern with eleven of the fourteen community hospitals reporting severe difficulties.

"The other three community hospitals maintain staffing levels through extensive use of bank and agency staff.

"There is still a real danger that more beds will close if staffing levels are not increased and, in some instances, whole wards may be lost."

In response to the concerns, Betsi Cadwaladr said it has agreed a joint discharge policy with the six local authorities in north Wales.

It added that the number of patients delayed is closely monitored and data is provided to the Welsh Government on a monthly basis.

It said: "The report highlights the national issues in recruitment of registered nurses and evidence of BCUHB's innovation in this area.

"The factors affecting staffing and other resources within the NHS are similar issues for local authority colleagues and those in the independent sector providing care home and domiciliary care services.

"Delays waiting for the allocation of social workers are escalated to the senior staff in the local authority and this is currently reducing.

"In addition there are experienced discharge matrons and teams who review each patient delay regularly with the locality matrons and the local authority to establish the actions required to ensure a prompt and safe discharge."

The report is set to be discussed by the trust's board members at a meeting in Llandudno next week.