The numbers show that NHS hospitals in England continue to see record numbers of patients who are medically fit and unable to be discharged, but ambulance handover delays outside of A&Es have improved, the numbers show.
Health leaders warned that emergency rooms are facing “alarming levels of stress” and that more beds are “desperately needed”.
The numbers come as nurses in the UK take industrial action for the second consecutive year in an ongoing dispute over pay, and new strikes are planned for February.
The NHS recommended that anyone who is seriously injured or ill call 999, but for non-urgent care, call 111 or visit the 111 website.
According to NHS England, an average of 14,036 beds were taken up by patients eligible to leave last week, down slightly from an all-time high of 14,069 the previous week.
At this point last year, the number was 12,498.
Only 41% of patients ready to leave hospital were actually discharged last week, falling to 30% in northwest England and 33% in southwest England.
Hospitals have faced an increasing challenge in recent months to discharge people who have recovered, often with insufficient support from local social care providers.
Delays in emptying beds have a knock-on effect for admissions, causing many patients to be held in ambulances before being transported to A&E teams.
However, there are signs that handover delays may improve.
A total of 23% of UK ambulance patients waited at least 30 minutes to be delivered to A&E teams last week, 36% from the previous week and the lowest ever this winter.
The figure hit a record 44% in the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
Nearly 9% of patients waited over an hour to be handed over to A&E teams last week – again this winter’s lowest and down to 19% from the week before.
At this point last year, 7% of people waiting more than an hour and 18% were waiting at least half an hour.
Patricia Marquis, director of the UK’s Royal College of Nursing, said the latest data “shows exactly why nurses across the country are standing up for their patients and joining the strike lines”.
He continued: “14,000 patients stranded in UK hospitals are medically eligible for discharge but unable to be discharged due to a lack of community and social care – a near-record number – and hospitals are full to the point of bursting, with the pressure on health and care showing no signs of easing. .
“The 47,000 nursing positions in the UK alone need to be filled and fair wages will increase hiring and retention. The workforce crisis and underpaid nurses have made care insecure.
“The prime minister and his ministers need to understand why maintenance staff are standing in cold strike lines. It is time for them to stop tiring rhetoric and do their job and negotiate with the nurses.”
With delayed discharge, bed shortages, a new wave of Covid-19 infections and the worst flu season in a decade, it’s one of a series of pressures the NHS is facing this winter.
Separate figures released on Thursday show that the rise in flu cases peaked at the start of the year, with an average of 3,447 patients hospitalized in UK hospital beds each day last week, down 37% from last week until 1 January.
The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 also continues to decline, with 6,299 patients registered on January 18, down 33% since January 1.
Saffron Cordery, interim CEO of NHS Providers, the membership organization of NHS trusts in England, warned that emergency and urgent care services are still experiencing “alarming levels of stress”, adding: “More beds are sorely needed.
“Every day, more than 14,000 medically fit patients can’t leave the hospital given the need to invest more in social care and community services.
“The £250m announced by the government to clear the beds is welcome given the urgent need to relieve pressures, but it needs to reach the front line without delay.”
Some hospital trusts discharged less than one in 10 medically fit patients last week, according to analysis by the PA news agency.
Rates dropped to just 5% at Stockport Foundation Trust, 8% at Liverpool University Hospitals and as low as 9% at both Warrington & Halton Teaching Hospitals and the Northern Care Alliance in Greater Manchester.
Other trusts with very low discharge rates include Doncaster & Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals (10%), Southport & Ormskirk Hospital (10%), Ashford & St Peter’s Hospitals in Surrey (14%) and Worcestershire Acute Hospitals (14%).
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England national medical director, acknowledged that the figures show the NHS is under “significant pressure”, adding: “The NHS has made extensive preparation for this winter – demand for extra beds, drop services and 24/7 nationwide control. centers to monitor and manage.
“The public can also help by using the best services for their situation: 999 in an emergency and 111 online otherwise and there is still time to get vaccinated if appropriate.”