One in seven Lothian beds blocked by well patients

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ONE in seven hospital beds across the Lothians has been put out of action as patients have nowhere to go, it has emerged.

The newly released figures are further evidence of a deepening bed-blocking crisis.

Health chiefs admitted that between 14 and 16 per cent of all NHS Lothian beds were occupied by patients who were well enough to be discharged but did not have the appropriate care package in place.

NHS Lothian’s board meeting yesterday heard that 420 patients have been trapped in hospitals for more than two weeks, with the average patient waiting 32 days before being discharged.

This is the highest figure since last October, when 434 people were confined to the region’s hospitals. The crisis was called “a tragedy” by patient groups, who warned that people are more at risk of infections the longer they are in hospital.

But the health board has pledged to take action alongside the council to reduce the burden on struggling wards.

Discussions are under way about opening up an additional 30 beds for patients at Gylemuir House, an interim facility in Corstorphine which has already taken on 74 patients since January.

Dr Jean Turner, patron of the Scotland Patients Association, said: “It’s a tragic story for patients, and staff too. If the hospital is running at a minimum staff level then you can’t provide quality healthcare, which is exhausting and stressful for staff. Having people in hospital longer than they should be puts them at risk of picking up chest infections, or pressure sores from being in bed too long.There are so many things that can go wrong. People are much happier mentally and physically if they aren’t in hospital when they don’t need to be.”

Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone called for urgent action before the winter months.

She said: “We must ensure adequate care home places and care-at-home packages are in place so that people are treated with respect and that our health service resources are being used to best effect.” Rising demand and a shortage of care home staff in Edinburgh have exacerbated the situation, Tim Davison, NHS Lothian chief ­executive, told the board meeting.

He said: “We have a growing number of elderly people with a growing number of problems.

“There has been 5000 hours of extra home care but they have gone on delivering more care to the same number of people.

“We are trying to balance unscheduled care demand with elective surgery and trying to balance the books as well.”

The news comes as elderly care services in the Capital face budget cuts of £5.7 million this year, just as Edinburgh’s new health and social care integration joint board met for the first time earlier this month.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, city health leader, said: “We are actively working to make sure the right services are in place to support people to get home or to move to the right specialist provision as quickly and safely as possible.”

lizzy.buchan@edinburghnews.com