Some patients in England face delays of months – and in one case over a year – to leave hospital, because of the lack of community care, the BBC has learnt.
Hospital records suggest nearly three-quarters had seen patients stranded for over 100 days in the past three years.
The reasons cited for delays included the lack of home care, nursing home places and support for stroke patients.
Frail patients and those with complex needs could not be released until care was available for them, hospitals said.
The NHS routinely collects figures on the overall number of delays, which show the problem is getting worse.
But little is known about just how long some patients are left waiting.
The average cost of a hospital bed is £400 a day.
The longest patients have been stranded in hospital
449 days – 62-year-old patient at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust
342 days – Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust patient waiting for care-home placement
324 days – paralysed patient at Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital awaiting care at home
313 days – stroke patient at Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust. Lack of care meant family or patient unable to cope following discharge
295 days – multiple sclerosis patient at Central Manchester Hospitals NHS Trust waiting for nursing home placement
294 days – patient at Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust waiting for care in own home
288 days – 82-year-old patient at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust
274 days – stroke patient at Central Manchester Hospitals NHS Trust waiting for council care
265 days – epilepsy patient at Central Manchester Hospitals NHS Trust waiting for care package in own home
265 days – patient at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust. No details provided
Source: BBC FoI
The BBC obtained the information under the Freedom of Information Act.
Requests were sent to 122 hospital trusts in England for information about their five longest delayed discharges over the past three years.
A total of 91 responded, but only 62 provided information about their longest delays.
Of those, 45 trusts confirmed they had had patients stuck in hospital for 100 days or more.
In total, there were 130 cases of patients waiting this long.
The identities of the patients have not been revealed.
Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which reported the longest wait, with a patient kept on a ward for over a year, said it could not comment on individual cases.
The Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust had five patients who were delayed for over 100 days – all were linked to a lack of social care.
A spokeswoman for the trust acknowledged getting patients access to care packages, including nursing home places and help in the home for daily tasks, such as washing and dressing, was proving difficult.
“Many of our patients are elderly with complex conditions and may require significant care both inside and outside hospital,” she added.
Over the past four years, the number of older people getting help from councils has fallen by quarter, while the NHS district nursing workforce has shrunk by 29% in the past five years.
During this period, the overall number of days of delays once an individual is ready for discharge has nearly doubled to 200,000 a month.
Eileen Kirton, 85, from North Yorkshire, is one of a growing number of people who has been affected by the problem.
She spent over a month waiting to be discharged, before being moved to a rehabilitation care unit.
She says it was hard to remain in hospital knowing she should be out.
“I was isolated in a little room. I was very down. I thought I was never going to leave.”
The Department of Health blamed councils, saying there was a “thirtyfold difference” between the best and worst performing areas when it came to delays discharging patients.
A spokeswoman said councils had been provided with dedicated money to fund social care.
“Elderly patients should never be in hospital unnecessarily,” she added.
But Councillor Izzi Seccombe, of the Local Government Association, said the care system was facing a funding gap of £2.6bn by 2020.
She said government policies, such as giving councils the ability to increase council tax to pay for care, fell “well short” of what was needed.
“Only genuinely new additional government funding for social care will give councils any chance of protecting the services caring for our elderly and disabled and ensure they can enjoy dignified, healthy and independent lives, live in their own community and stay out of hospital for longer,” she said.
Councils are expected to spend £16bn this year on social care – topping this up to over £19bn once contributions from individuals are included.
Additional reporting by George Greenwood
A week of coverage by BBC News examining the state of the NHS across the UK as it comes under intense pressure during its busiest time of the year.