THE tangle of red tape involved in moving patients out of hospital beds has forced many people into unnecessarily long hospital stays, health chiefs have admitted.

At a meeting this week, health and social care bosses told how in one case earlier this year hospital staff became so embroiled with mountains of bureaucracy that they failed to realise the patient had recovered, while another patient in March spent a number of days on the ward waiting for an assessment to ensure she could safely use stairs, only for the hospital to eventually realise she lived in a bungalow.

Situations such as these have contributed to the county becoming one of the worst performing areas in the UK for so-called bed blocking (also known as Delayed Transfer of Care) for a number of years.

The problem means hospital beds remain needlessly occupied thus reducing capacity for new patients.

Deputy director for adult services, Karen Fuller, gave the examples at a meeting of the county's local watchdog, Healthwatch Oxfordshire, as she explained how under a new joint way of working, the system had made vast improvements.

Speaking about the patient who spent five days waiting for a stair assessment she said: "It's a really good example of where the nurses are doing their job, consultants are doing their job, the social workers are doing their job but no-one is talking.

"Another example is, different organisations debated for so long, about what a patient needed, in terms of does he need this or that, or does he need social housing, at one point somebody said, does he actually still need any of that and they realised no, he didn't."

She added: "That would not happen now."

Bed blocking - caused when patients cannot be discharged from hospital because of a lack of alternative care - has been a particular problem in Oxfordshire's acute hospitals for many years and despite recent improvements is still seen as a priority for health chiefs.

According to the latest NHS statistics, as of August there were still 111 beds being needlessly taken up by otherwise health patients in Oxfordshire, however that figure has come down from 142 year on year.

This year the county's health and social care organisations have been brought under one system, which health bosses say has already let to vast improvements.

Ms Fuller said the new joint way of working allowed doctors, nurses and social workers to 'cut through' the bureaucracy.