New figures show NHS Lothian has lost more than a million bed days in the past decade because of delayed discharges
More than a million bed days have been lost due to delayed discharges in Lothian over the past decade, new figures show.
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And despite a significant improvement during lockdown, numbers appear to be on the rise again with nearly 24,000 bed days already lost in the first three months of this year.
Now Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray is calling for urgent action from Health Secretary Humza Yousaf to tackle the problem.
New research has revealed that between April 2012 and July 2021, NHS Lothian recorded 1,007,218 lost bed days because of delayed discharges – when patients have to remain in hospital despite being fit to leave, often because care arrangements are not available for them to return to the community or there is a lack of spaces in care homes.
Prior to the pandemic more than 100,000 bed days were being taken up by delayed discharge every year.
And even after a big decline because of Covid – down to 51,573 in 2020/21 – the figures seem to be heading back up again, with 23,772 bed days lost already in the three months to July.
The SNP Scottish Government has made repeated pledges over the years to reduce the impact of delayed discharge and promised in 2015 to eradicate it.
But the research shows the problem has persisted and led to significantly reduced bed capacity in Lothian.
Bed days lost to delayed discharge rose from 106,886 in 2012/13 to 117,637 in 2013/14, 136,745 in 2014/15, dipped to 121,752 in 2015/16 and 110,786 before rising again to 120,210 in 2018/18 and 124,048 in 2018/19, then fell to 93,809 in 2019/20.
Mr Murray said the new figures illustrate the significant impact that delayed discharge has had on patients and hospitals across the area over the past ten years.
“Delayed discharge is rising rapidly in Scotland once again, and it’s astonishing that we’ve now hit 1million lost bed days in the Lothian region.
“Our NHS and dedicated doctors and nurses are under incredible strain and it’s clear that the support isn’t in place to ensure vulnerable patients are discharged swiftly.
“The SNP has utterly failed to resource social care adequately and this is the result.
“It’s time for Humza Yousaf to acknowledge the failings, end his obsession with the constitution, listen to clinicians, and act to prevent thousands of people being stuck in hospital beds unnecessarily.”
Jacquie Campbell, chief officer for acute services at NHS Lothian, said they recognised that nobody wanted to stay in hospital longer than necessary and they aimed to discharge patients as soon as they were well enough and it was safe to do so.
"The issue of delayed discharge is a complicated challenge for us, our Integrated joint boards and council colleagues. We continue to work closely with our four health and social care partners to tackle delayed discharges, including optimising home care and care home availability.”