LOTHIAN health chiefs are being handed a £4.3 million bed-blocking fund for next year to help tackle the problem of patients trapped in hospital because no care is in place for them outside.
The Evening News revealed last year how bed-blocking was causing operations to be cancelled, with 568 patients waiting beyond a 12-week treatment target.
And over one three-month period, a total of 33,000 bed days were taken up by patients who were well enough to be discharged to care homes, making Lothian the worst health board in Scotland for bed-blocking.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said tackling delayed discharge was an “absolute key priority” for the Scottish Government. Lothian’s extra funding is part of a £30m investment to tackle delayed discharges in 2015-16 and £100m over the next three years.
A radical shake-up of health and social care services will see NHS Lothian pool its community care resources with the region’s four councils from April in a move intended to create a “seamless” service.
Unison branch secretary Tom Waterson said the £4.3m to help tackle delayed discharge was welcome.
But he said: “Given we are £70m in the red, it’s just a drop in the ocean.
“We need to ensure there are enough social care beds and enough support and all four councils are doing their bit.”
Announcing the cash, Ms Robison said all patients should be treated as quickly and as effectively as possible, with the right care, in the right place, at the right time.
She said: “Reducing delayed discharge not only helps individual patients, who benefit from getting home or to a homely setting as quickly as possible, but also helps ease pressure across the system.
“As we head towards the integration of health and social care this additional funding will also support work under way to transform care services which will get people who may be unnecessarily staying in hospital home or into a homely setting.”
Susan Goldsmith, director of finance at NHS Lothian, said: “We welcome this funding from the Scottish Government which will help support our efforts to reduce delayed discharge.”