Delayed discharge, or bed blocking, is when a patient is medically fit to leave hospital, but doesn’t have a care home or appropriate place in the community to go to.
New figures for delayed discharge in NHS Lothian showed that, in October, there were 8,129 delays, with a daily average of 264 beds occupied a day. The level of delayed discharge is now higher than pre-pandemic levels, with over 500 delays more than for the same month two years ago.
The latest data for available staffed beds across NHS Lothian, showed that there were 2,177 beds for the quarter ending June 2021. With an average of 264 beds occupied a day, this means that delayed discharge accounts for approximately 12 per cent of NHS Lothian’s capacity.
This has a huge impact on other services across NHS Lothian. Accident and emergency departments, and the ambulance service, have growing waiting times because there is not capacity on hospital wards for patients.
Hospitals are not designed to run at full capacity 24/7 and the extreme pressures that NHS Lothian have been put under is apparent.
We cannot forget about the people who aren’t able to leave hospital either. Being stuck in a hospital bed is not good for someone’s mental or physical health. If people are bed-bound for an extended period of time it leads to muscle wastage and they are less likely to make a full physical recovery when they do leave hospital.
Health and social care services across Edinburgh are under severe pressure and have not been given adequate support by SNP ministers to ensure everyone can be given appropriate social care when they need it.
At the start of the pandemic, SNP ministers made the decision to move hospital patients into care homes, to free up hospital space for dealing with Covid. In NHS Lothian, the number of delays dropped to 2531, with an average of 84 beds occupied per day.
This year the number of delayed discharges has been rising. Over the last six months, there has been over a 50 per cent increase in beds occupied per day with an average of 172 at the end of April and 264 in the latest figures.
It is disappointing that SNP ministers have watched delayed discharge in NHS Lothian surpass pre-Covid levels and have not done anything about it. If the Health Secretary and SNP government were really concerned about addressing delayed discharge in this area then they would provide a fairer level of funding to NHS Lothian.
Concerningly, in the latest board papers, NHS Lothian revealed the health board had a funding deficit of £100 million over the last six years.
It’s now critical that we see a new deal for Lothian and for SNP ministers to step up and properly support Edinburgh and NHS Lothian to deal with the current social care crisis and the increasing financial pressures – anything less will be a failure and will lead to a future financial crisis. SNP ministers cannot say they haven’t been warned.
Miles Briggs is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Lothian