Man stranded in ERI for three months over care row

John Liddle with friends Ronnie Robertson, left, and William Gibson. Picture: Scott Taylor
John Liddle with friends Ronnie Robertson, left, and William Gibson. Picture: Scott Taylor
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A MAN has been left languishing in mind-numbing boredom for three months on a hospital ward, despite the fact he should have left after three weeks.

Walter “John” Liddle, who suffers from a degenerative disease, is at his wits’ end and desperate to get out of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he’s effectively been living since April. He cannot leave because of delays over agreeing a home care package.

The case has sparked an apology from NHS Lothian and is sure to place the controversial issue of bed-blocking back under the microscope.

Last night retiree John, as he’s known to friends, said: “I’m bored out of my skull every day.”

He has spent the past 14 weeks stuck on orthopaedic ward 109, despite the fact he doesn’t require medical treatment. Officials haven’t had the right measures in place to allow him back to return to his Pilton home.

The 54-year-old, who suffers from Huntington’s disease, could have been discharged after three weeks, having originally being admitted with a broken shoulder following a fall in his home.

Instead he has been left in limbo, sitting for countless hours in a sterile ward surrounded by non-stop noise and sick patients.


Mr Liddle, who described his hospital stay as “rough”, doesn’t read or watch television and only gets out into the hospital grounds when his pals visit to push his wheelchair.

William Gibson, 54, who holds power of attorney rights for Mr Liddle, said they had been told up to four people were needed to look after their friend 24 hours a day as his condition means he needs help with simple tasks such as cooking.

He said: “His mind’s there. The disease just affects his walking and his balance.”

Lifelong friend Ronnie Robertson, 50, claims lack of funding on the part of the council has been cited for the hospital discharge delay.

He said: “He’s been told they’ve not got the funding. They were hoping that the health care and social care would go halves but both of them have knocked it back. He can’t be put in secured accommodation because he’s not suitable for it. He’s just been left in limbo.”

The case of the ex-joiner, forced to retire 15 years ago because of the disease which also claimed the lives of his father and brother, has now been taken up Edinburgh North and Leith MSP Malcolm Chisholm.

He has written to NHS Lothian health and social care director Peter Gabbitas demanding immediate action.

He said: “It’s unacceptable that Mr Liddle has been delayed for so long in hospital. It’s better for him if he leaves because he wants to be home, but obviously it also has the advantage of freeing up a hospital bed.”


Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “This is the human face of the bed-blocking crisis affecting hospitals right across Scotland. It’s a losing situation for everyone.

“It’s not good enough for organisations tasked with looking after those in need to simply shrug their shoulders. This has gone on long enough, and everyone – the council, the NHS and the Scottish Government if necessary – should be putting their heads together for a solution.”

NHS Lothian nurse director Melanie Hornett said: “We are working hard with our social care partners to stop situations like this from arising by ensuring that the appropriate continuing care packages are available as and when they are required.

“The amount of time Mr Liddle has spent in hospital is unacceptable. However, we are now beginning to see an increase in the number of home care packages, care home places and services to support people in their communities being made available by Edinburgh council.”

City health and wellbeing convener Councillor Ricky Henderson said it was “especially important” people receive all the help they need after being discharged from hospital.

He said: “The council is currently working closely with the NHS to develop an appropriate care package for Mr Liddle as a matter of urgency.”

Key priority

TACKLING bed-blocking has become one of NHS Lothian’s top priorities as it seeks to avoid a repeat of last year’s winter meltdown.

An investigation was launched in April after figures showed the number of patients being taken back into Lothian hospitals shortly after being discharged was soaring above the Scottish average.

More than four per cent of patients having surgery were back in hospital within 28 days of leaving. Patients returning to a hospital bed within a month was also occurring in more than one of 11 cases.

Out of every 1000 Lothian admissions, 21.76 surgical patients and 50.42 medical patients were being readmitted within seven days. The Scottish rates are 20.23 and 45.18 respectively.

Cruel disease

Huntington’s disease is an inherited condition that damages certain nerve cells in the brain.

The condition causes deterioration and gradual loss of function of these parts of the brain, affecting a person’s movement, cognition and behaviour.

Early symptoms can include personality changes, mood swings and unusual behaviour.

There is no known cure and the condition’s progress cannot be reversed or slowed down.

Sufferers die on average 20 years after the first symptoms are noticed.

John’s chum Ronnie Robertson said: “It’s a cruel disease.”