A TOTAL of 553 patients in Lothian have died while waiting to be released from hospital since the Scottish Government pledged to end bed-blocking nearly three years ago.
Across Scotland more than 1,000 patients died while on a delayed discharge waiting list.
And Labour’s health spokesman, Anas Sarwar, warned the situation would only get worse as councils face swingeing cuts to their social care budgets.
Health Secretary Shona Robison announced in early 2015 that delayed discharge would be eradicated by the end of that year. But figures obtained by Labour under freedom of information shows that 1,152 patients have died while waiting to be discharged.
The Lothian figure was far higher than for any other health board and accounted for almost half the delayed discharge deaths in Scotland. Delayed discharge occurs when patients are clinically ready to leave hospital but are waiting for care and accommodation arrangements to be made.
Mr Sarwar said: “In 2015 the SNP promised to scrap delayed discharge in our hospitals. Instead, more than 1,000 patients have died in hospital waiting to go home.
“Our NHS staff are undervalued and overstretched, and they should be supported by a proper system to help patients out of hospital as soon as they are fit to leave.
“Further cuts to local councils which provide social care will only add to this, and it shows the complete mismanagement of our health and care services under the SNP.
“Fixing delayed discharge will begin to relieve the pressure on our hospitals and NHS staff, allowing for better patient care for everyone – but we can only do that if we invest properly in local services. That means doing more than tinkering around the edges on tax, it means real and radical change.”
The Scottish Government has pumped hundreds of millions of pounds into the creation of health and social care partnerships aimed at fostering a more “joined up” approach between services but there have been concerns they have not been working on the ground.
Ms Robison said: “When a patient is assessed as requiring care on discharge, we expect local health and social care partnerships to ensure appropriate support is provided.
“We have seen a significant 11 per cent fall in the overall number in the last month, and a 10 per cent decrease in the extra days spent in hospital, compared with October 2016, but we want to do more. Boards are working hard to ensure no patient has to spend unnecessary, extra time in hospital.”
Jim Crombie, deputy chief executive at NHS Lothian, said it was a complex situation which was challenging for the council and integration joint board.
“We are continuing to work closely with our partners to increase care provision allowing patients to be discharged to more appropriate settings.
“The programme includes: optimising home care and care home provision; further developing our multi-agency working, and maximising the impact of our workforce resources by redesigning care models and improving efficiency.”