Comment: 226 people are stuck in our hospitals

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IT is the issue which just won’t go away for NHS Lothian.

Delayed discharge – or so-called bed blocking – is back in the headlines again today, with new figures showing that while it is improving across Scotland, the Capital is continuing to get worse.

More than 12,000 bed days were taken up by patients well enough to be sent home or discharged to care homes in May, making it the worst-performing health board in the country. It was an increase of five per cent on the previous month which is particularly worrying, as this is a problem which is naturally at its height over the colder months.

It’s easy to be blinded by statistics but look behind them and what you find is 226 people stuck in hospital in the Lothians when there is no medical need for them to be there. That’s enough people to fill two-and-a-half double-
decker buses – and all of them going nowhere.

With an ageing population and continuing pressure on local authority budgets, bed blocking has been described as an “iceberg” facing NHS Lothian.

The health board is treating the issue seriously but the message today is that it is not moving fast enough.

The city’s new health and social care integration joint board (IJB) met for the first time earlier this month under a system which will see NHS Lothian pool its resources with the region’s four councils.

This was a move which we welcomed previously and are now keener than ever to see it producing some real results.

Streamlining processes and improving communication will go some of the way but Labour’s Sarah Boyack is right today when she says this is an issue which is just not going to go away without significant investment.

The Scottish Government target says no-one should be delayed in hospital for longer than two weeks but even that is unacceptable. No-one should be delayed in hospital at all.