HUNDREDS of care home beds across the city are lying empty despite a “bed-blocking” crisis in Lothian hospitals – because they fall foul of industry standards.
Around 450 beds cannot be filled because the Care Inspectorate has ruled they are below par, forcing many patients who are well enough to be discharged to remain in hospital unnecessarily, the council’s social care chief has claimed.
It means about 15 per cent of the city’s 3000 care beds are closed to new admissions.
Experts claim the drastic shortfall in care beds is central to the mounting bed-blocking crisis in the region – because patients are unable to be transferred out of hospital, meaning vital bed spaces are blocked from being used by other patients.
It comes days after figures showed the number of elderly stuck in hospital across the Lothians had reached a record high
Peter Gabbitas, director of health and social care for Edinburgh City Council and NHS Lothian, said the number of care beds blocked to new admissions was three times higher than the average for the past few years.
He added: “If you look at previous years, at any given time the care inspectorate prevent access to about five per cent of beds within the city so to have it at 15 per cent is particularly challenging.”
Concerns about substandard care has led the council to halt admissions to Bupa’s Pentland Hill, Victoria Manor and Braid Hills facilities pending improvements. Once sufficient progress is made, the number of residents must be increased gradually so not to overwhelm staff and residents.
Mr Gabbitas said: “The Care Inspectorate restricts how many admissions they can have per week in order that they gradually build up so it is a phased increase in those beds from zero to 58 beds from May to the end of August.
“I’m really confident that the care home situation is really starting to turn around and improve.”
He added: “We know there are a number of homes that are being re-inspected, their grades have gone up, their performance has gone up and we’re anticipating that from between now and the start of September, there will be 58 places that will be available that we will be able to place people in.”
Figures released last week showed delayed discharges – or bed-blocking – had hit record highs in Lothian, with patients well enough to be discharged to care homes or their own homes instead spending 33,000 bed days in hospital between January and March this year.
Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scottish Patients Association, said older people were being “let down” and called for more progress to help people back to their home or into residential placements.
She said: “We need to find a way of eliminating the pressure and the strain on NHS staff and this clearly isn’t helping.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said health chiefs had to find a long-term solution to a problem that was getting worse.
He added: “It’s no secret that standards in certain care homes must improve.
“And of course, patients cannot be sent there if there are going to be fears for their wellbeing thereafter.”