Edinburgh health funding: MSP says 'surplus' Covid cash must go to tackling delayed discharge
Scottish Government accused of ‘pulling rug’ from under Edinburgh’s efforts on issue
Covid cash which the Scottish Government plans to claw back from Edinburgh health bosses must be used instead to help cut delayed discharges, one of the biggest factors in the Capital's care crisis, Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs has said.
He argues that the money was used to speed up hospital discharges and create extra care capacity during the pandemic and accused ministers of now pulling the rug from under Edinburgh's attempts to continue such work. He said: "This money was originally being put forward to find solutions to problems like delayed discharge and now, all of a sudden, they're being told it can't be used for that and the money which the government provided to help is being clawed back."
The Scottish Government wrote to councils, health boards and integration joint boards (IJBs) in the autumn, notifying them it would be seeking to recover "surplus" Covid-related funding. A report to the Edinburgh IJB in October said it had a Covid reserve of £44.9m at the start of the year and costs were estimated at £26.8m, suggesting a figure of £18.1m which the government would want to reclaim.
Mr Briggs protested to acting Finance Secretary John Swinney that the pressures on health and social care caused by Covid continued to be an issue, that delayed discharge had returned to pre-pandemic levels and that significant investment was needed to move to a care-in-the-community model. But in his response Mr Swinney said that while he agreed that Covid pressures had continued beyond the pandemic period and had contributed to the increase in delayed discharges, the Covid money could not be used “to fund new spending commitments”.
Delayed discharge – when patients are medically cleared to leave hospital, but end up staying because a bed in a care home or a care package for them to live at home is not available – leads to a shortage of hospital beds and in turn to delays in A&E departments.
Mr Briggs said: "People have been trying for years to find a solution to the cost of delivering adult social care because the situation is getting worse and worse and if there's going to be less money on the table to try to find solutions then we can't expect the situation to improve. Without more resources this problem cannot be solved."
He said early in the pandemic, the government and the council had recognised the need to make the system more effective and responsive. "That's where that Covid funding was meant to help and it did help get people out of hospital who shouldn't be there. But now that has been lost in translation. That money was given to help create these systems and additional capacity and that's something we desperately need to continue. But now that rug feel like its going to be pulled from beneath Edinburgh.”