Kezia Dugdale slams Holyrood health chief as bed blocking soars

NHS Lothian has recorded the worst figures of any Scottish health board.
NHS Lothian has recorded the worst figures of any Scottish health board.
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Former Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has accused the Health Secretary of broken promises over bed blocking in the wake of NHS Lothian recording the worst figures of any Scottish health board.

A total of 10,428 days were spent in Lothian hospitals by people whose discharge was delayed in February.

Health Secretary Shona Robinson.

Health Secretary Shona Robinson.

The figure is a 15 per cent increase on the 9,049 days spent by patients during the same month last year.

The number of occupied bed days for NHS Lothian far outstripped any other health board, making up more than a quarter of Scotland’s total of 38,394 “bed blocking” days.

It is the highest figure for NHS Lothian since 2015 – the year Health Secretary Shona Robison spoke of her determination to “eradicate delayed discharge out of the system” within 12 months.

The alarming figures come on the back of a flu epidemic this winter that left Scottish hospitals flooded with extra patients.

The fresh data for February showed the crisis-hit Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh was the worst hospital affected.

Just 57.9 per cent of patients were seen within the target four hours in the week ending 25 March.

The next worst performer was Forth Valley Royal Hospital at 83.9 per cent. The country’s average stands at 88.3 per cent.

Ms Dugdale challenged the SNP’s health secretary to address the crisis, saying: “Shona Robison’s broken promise on delayed discharge has cost Scottish taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds, which could have been reinvested in our NHS to deliver better patient care and staff support.

“NHS Lothian is the epicentre of the crisis, with more than 10,000 days spent in hospital by people whose discharge was delayed in February.

“Much of the delay in discharging patients is due to social care issues and delays in care assessments... the A&E department at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh has been under-performing for far too long, but these latest figures are simply unacceptable.”

The Scottish Government pointed out the total days taken up by bed blocking across NHS Scotland for February was a five per cent drop compared with the same month last year when 40,246 days were lost.

Ms Robison said: “These figures cover a period when our hospitals undoubtedly experienced significant additional demands due to the pressures we know winter brought. Staff deserve huge thanks for their work in supporting anyone experiencing a delay and also patients themselves for their patience and understanding.

“Against the progress we continue to see, I expect boards to keep working hard to ensure no patient has to spend unnecessary extra time in hospital. When treatment is complete, patients should be discharged as soon as it is safe and appropriate to do so.

“To support that, we have transferred nearly half a billion pounds from the NHS into social care and integration this financial year.”