A CASH injection of nearly £15 million has been hailed as “an important first step” in the battle to tackle bed blocking in Lothian.
The government funding will form part of the new social healthcare system which will see NHS Lothian pool its community care resources with the region’s four councils from April.
It has been earmarked to support people in their homes to prevent hold-ups in discharge and reduce hospital admissions.
Theresa Fyffe, Scotland director for the Royal College of Nursing, said additional resources were vital if integration was to be successful.
“This additional money will help ease this and should mean that patients who are clinically ready to leave hospital will not be delayed for days or weeks, but will have a care package in place or a place in a care home to enable them to leave hospital safely,” she said.
“This is good for patients and should help ease the pressure on beds which so many of our health boards are currently experiencing.”
The last year has seen record numbers of bed blocking cases, where a patient is clinically ready to leave hospital but there is no forward care in place.
Soaring demand on services caused by an ageing population has left the Capital needing an additional 5000 hours of home care every year, putting additional strain on already-stretched hospitals.
The vast majority of cases involve older people, with fears it will continue to rise with the city’s ageing population, unless radical solutions are found.
Dr Jean Turner, former GP and executive director of the Scotland Patients Association, welcomed the investment.
She said: “I think it’s the right decision to invest more on making people’s homes safer and providing more trained staff to care for people at home.
“If there are fewer people going to hospital because of home care and modifications, it will save money in the long run.”
While additional funding has been welcomed, politicians warned it was no “silver bullet”.
Labour Lothian MSP Sarah Boyack said: “A key issue is the lack of nursing and care home places. The availability and affordability of good quality accommodation for older people recovering from illness in particular needs to be addressed.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said it was an area which has been under-funded. He said: “So long as the cash is matched by some intelligent planning and thinking, we should hopefully see these statistics moving in the right direction.”