Almost half of patients at Royal Berkshire NHS Trust were unable to leave hospital despite being fit to leave, on an average day in the past year.

That’s according to figures uncovered by the BBC and shared with the Reading Chronicle, as part of a national investigation that underlines a shortage of care staff across England.

Royal Berkshire Hospital said it wants to get patients home from hospital 'as soon as possible', but added that this 'is not straightforward'.

The investigation showed that on an average day 46.3 per cent of Royal Berks patients ready to be discharged were still in a hospital bed by midnight, between July 2022 and June 2023.

Although this is lower than the average for England – which is 5.78 per cent – it still means more than half of patients ready to leave couldn’t be discharged.

On the worst day at Royal Berks a staggering 89.7 per cent of patients classed as “no longer meeting the criteria” to be in hospital were still occupying beds at midnight.

READ MORE: Royal Berkshire Hospital under severe pressure almost every week

The BBC’s investigation says the most reported reason for delays across England was that hospital staff were waiting for home care packages – typically provided by councils – to be ready for patients leaving.

This was followed by a shortage of beds in community hospitals or other settings, and finally a shortage of permanent beds in nursing homes.

The Royal College of Nursing said “persistent understaffing” in care services is “at the heart” of the problem.

David Hare, the council in charge of health at Wokingham Borough Council – one of the councils that works with Royal Berks – criticised the government for “chronic underfunding” of council care services.

He said Wokingham had “one of the best discharge rates in the region.” But he said this is “becoming increasingly difficult to maintain this as the government has reduced the grant funding in this area.”

He added: “We have a social care workforce crisis with many vacancies, and it is simply wrong that we cannot afford to fund pay rates for carers that really compete with the NHS or even a supermarket check-out assistant.

“Adult Services provide good care and support, making a positive difference to many people in our borough, enabling them to live their lives in ways that matter to them. But we can’t escape from the fact there is chronic underfunding in the sector.”

Despite this, councillor Hare said discharge delays are caused by different factors and can’t be put down mostly to social care.

He said the important thing is making sure patients are discharged with the right care, rather than too quickly, and that the council works with Royal Berks to do this.

Royal Berks said: “Getting patients home from hospital as soon as possible once they are well is good for the person involved, and the hospital itself.

“However, getting patients out of hospital, especially more frail patients, is not straightforward and requires close partnership working, for example with our local authorities.

“We welcome their social workers to share our offices and work well together to help our patients leave hospital.”

Reading Borough Council did not respond to request for comment before publication.