Rise in bed-blocking costs NHS Lothian £3.6 million, says Tory health spokesman

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AN increase in bed-blocking cost NHS Lothian an extra £3.6 million last year, Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs claimed today.

He said statistics showed the number of days patients were stuck in hospital despite being well enough to go home rose from 115,511 to 131,011 and the cost went up from just over £27 million to more than £30.6m.

Delayed discharge is a complicated business, say NHS chiefs.

Delayed discharge is a complicated business, say NHS chiefs.

And he claimed the figures showed the integration of health and social care was not working in Lothian.

Mr Briggs said: “A 13 per cent increase to the cost of delayed discharge in NHS Lothian amounts to a significant cost to the health board, that could be used to help other services.

“The integration of health and social care is obviously not working in Lothian with the number of delayed discharges going up every year.

“It is vital that the provision of social care is improved, so that patients aren’t stuck in hospital once they are medically fit to leave. Investment in social care is crucial in Lothian. However under the SNP budget councils are being forced to makes cuts to services, including Social Care services.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman declared in December that the quality of social care in Lothian was “unacceptable” after inspectors said there had been little progress since their damning report a year earlier.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, chair of the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board, said: “We are working on a plan to reduce late discharge and we are seeing some positive signs of progress. We want to see the figures reducing over the next few months.

“There are many challenges in terms of integrating health and social care, not least the budget situation and increasing demand for services.

“I’ll leave it to others to judge whether integration is successful or not. A lot of the changes that need to come about will not happen overnight.

“It’s a new way of working, it requires people to come together and share resources and work across the NHS and the council, not forgetting the crucial role of third-sector partners and the community. It will take time.”

NHS Lothian deputy chief executive Jim Crombie said delayed discharge was “a complicated challenge”. He said: “One of the ways we are tackling this together is with an investment of an additional £4 million. This will provide a significant increase in packages of care for patients waiting in acute hospitals and will also fund the improvement of community services for those at home to reduce the need for admission.”

He said a wider review had also led to the introduction of a more efficient process for discharge from hospital.

“We are never complacent about the scale and extent of the challenges but we are already beginning to see some sustained improvements resulting from this investment and activity.”