Carer shortage blocking Lothian hospital beds

10,000 days were lost to bed blocking in Lothian hospitals in November. Picture: Getty
10,000 days were lost to bed blocking in Lothian hospitals in November. Picture: Getty
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HOSPITALS in the Lothians lost nearly 10,000 bed days in November as patients waited for a care package to be sorted.

And more than 200 patients who were fit to leave hospital in December were forced to stay as they had nowhere to go.

The increasing pressure on the region’s hospitals comes after the Evening News revealed that 95 people died in the Capital last year while waiting for a council care package to start.

NHS Lothian says the extent of its bed-blocking problem – which is the worst of all Scotland’s health boards – leads to growing waiting lists for treatment and planned operations being cancelled.

The figures have improved incrementally in the last year, but ministers have been forced to intervene to speed up progress. Health secretary Shona Robison announced a £2 million cash boost to tackle the social care crisis during a visit to Drumbrae Care Home yesterday, including additional beds and extra staff.

Campaigners hailed the funding but suggested more needed to be done to manage the disconnect between hospitals and social care.

Alison Johnstone, Scottish Greens health spokeswoman and a Lothian MSP, said: “Over the last year Edinburgh has struggled with almost £10m overspend on the health and social care budget and even then has carried thousands of hours of unmet care needs each week. £2m extra is welcome but an awful lot more is needed to bridge the gap.”

The majority of people affected are over the age of 75, leaving them vulnerable to infection, dependency and depression, said a spokesperson for Age Scotland.

The spokesperson said: “Although some areas have improved their delayed discharge figures, others have gone backwards and the picture across Scotland remains pretty stagnant, so much work still needs to be done.

“Delayed discharges cost the NHS in Scotland millions of pounds every month, with knock-on postponements to admissions, transfers and scheduling of surgical procedures.”

The spokesperson continued: “Delays mostly occur waiting for care assessments or arranging care home places or packages of support at home, which shows the need for integrated health and care services.

“But as Audit Scotland suggested in December, integration may take five years at least to generate notable improvements.”

George Walker, chairman of the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board, said: “The announcement of £2m in funding is extremely welcome and will be used on targeted resources.

“The board is reviewing the discharge processes at the moment to make sure that they are as efficient and effective as possible”.