11,000 days lost to bed-blocking as Lothian hospitals feel pressure

Bed blocking is adding to pressure at NHS Lothian
Bed blocking is adding to pressure at NHS Lothian
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More than 11,500 bed days were lost by NHS Lothian in May due to delayed discharge while over 1,000 operations have been cancelled since the turn of the year because hospitals have struggled with the demand.

Last month, a report was commissioned by the Scottish Government after claims by a whistle-blower that A&E waiting times were being falsely recorded at St John’s Hospital in Livingston. The investigation by the Academy of Royal Colleges revealed a catalogue of failings by NHS Lothian including incidences of bullying and harassment, a lack of medical leadership and a poor governance structure.

The latest figures come as another blow to the organisation, as politicians call on new health secretary Jeane Freeman, to improve the situation for patients.

In May, only 86.2 per cent of A&E patients were seen within four hours – an improvement on April’s 82.4 per cent, but the worst in Scotland.

Labour MSP for the Lothians, Kezia Dugdale, said: “Patients in Edinburgh and the Lothians are still waiting far too long in A&E and are being left in pain and discomfort because operations are cancelled. Thousands of bed days have also been lost due to delayed discharge, which the SNP promised to eradicate. This simply isn’t good enough. Dedicated staff are being overworked, understaffed and under-resourced as a result of decisions taken by the SNP government.”

NHS Lothian has the worst discharge wait of all the health boards in Scotland.

Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs, said: “Despite all the promises of the SNP to eradicate delayed discharge, these figures show that the number of patients languishing in inappropriate care settings is significantly worse.

“There is simply no excuse for these latest worsening figures other than the mismanagement of the SNP.”

The news comes as NHS Lothian agreed to roll out a five-year quality management strategy after a successful trial – despite needing £11 million of additional funding to pay for it.

Part of the improvement plan will involve embracing “new and cutting edge technology” to “close the gap between demand and capacity” with less funding to cater for a growing population. NHS Lothian will also hope to install an “innovation culture” in staff within the organisation.

Jacquie Campbell, chief officer of acute services at NHS Lothian, said: “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.

“We apologise to anyone who has had their operation rescheduled. There are also unavoidable circumstances which mean operations have to be rescheduled, including emergency admissions that must receive priority, be treated quickly, and cannot be planned for.”

She added: “We had 24,482 attendances at our emergency departments in May 2018, of which the majority, 21,103, were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

“The priority of our emergency departments is to ensure that patients are treated in accordance to their needs.”