Bed blocking crisis drags on in Lothian’s hospitals

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Bed blocking is continuing to plague Lothian hospitals despite national levels falling to their lowest point since 2013, new figures have revealed.

More than 12,000 bed days were taken up in May by elderly patients who were well enough to be sent home or discharged to a care home, making NHS Lothian the worst-performing health board in Scotland.

That was a five per cent increase on the previous month.

Statistics published by ISD Scotland revealed that 226 patients were confined to Lothian hospitals for more than two weeks in May.

This compares with 219 patients at the same time last year, despite major efforts to tackle the problem which takes up vital bed space.

The issue is particularly severe in Edinburgh, where 8523 bed days were lost to bed-blocking in May – an increase of 400 days on the previous month.

The figures were branded “a serious problem” by Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack, who called for proper investment to alleviate the pressure on struggling hospitals.

Ms Boyack said: “Although across Scotland there’s been a very small reduction in the levels of delayed discharge, the problem is getting worse in the Lothians. I’ve raised this issue several times with SNP health ministers because I’m concerned about the capacity of our health and social care services in the Lothians. This is a serious problem which won’t go away without investment.

“From GP surgeries to care services, there are huge pressures in the Lothians. We need upfront investment to enable better alternative provision in the community.

“It makes no human or financial sense that people are stuck in hospital when they could be better supported either back at home or in a care home.”

The soaring numbers are attributed to a shortage of care home beds and a ­rising elderly population with complex needs, who cannot be discharged from hospital without effective care packages in place. There are 2854 care home beds in the city, with just 587 provided by the counci.

The news follow reports that elderly care services in the Capital could face budget cuts of £5.7 million this year, just as the city’s new health and social care integration joint board met for the first time.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, city leader for health and social care, said: “We currently provide record levels of home care to prevent admission to hospital and help people get home, but more needs to be achieved.”

City chiefs teamed up with NHS Lothian in January to create an interim facility at Gylemuir House, which has already taken on 74 hospital patients.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said the government had committed to funding £100m in tackling bed blocking over the next three years.

lizzy.buchan@edinburghnews.com