Elderly patients are being forced to wait so long to get out of hospital that they fall ill again.
Social services may be fined for leaving pensioners in hospital
Half of those ready to leave North Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke were removed from the list to go to a care home after they caught fresh infections, new figures have revealed.
Of 56 patients, 23 became sick while waiting for a month or more to be moved to a nursing home in January.
Many are believed to have been victims of a recent outbreak of a vomiting bug at the hospital.
Frank Rust, chairman of the local Community Health Council, said: "This is serious. It is a most unsafe situation to have elderly people remaining in hospital, not just because of the risk of infections, but because there's not the real support they need.
"They don't have the furniture or the home comforts or environment that they need."
Social services blame the problem on the high cost of care homes.
The number of homes in the region is also dwindling, as many owners sell the land to building developers.
A new social services-owned nursing home is planned for Basingstoke, which would open by late 2004 at the earliest.
The government is planning new legislation to let hospitals fine social services £120 for every day a patient is left there waiting for a care home place.
It is estimated that more than 4,000 elderly people remain in hospitals in England despite being fit to leave.