Comment: Bed blocking will worsen unless action taken

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It’s not a new problem. 
Delayed discharge – or bed blocking – has been costing NHS Lothian time and money for years.

What is new is that the situation now appears to be at a point where urgent action has to be taken to prevent complete meltdown over winter.

Today we have figures showing a record number of elderly people stuck in hospital when they don’t need to be there.

Every month, dozens more are left to languish for more than 28 days when they should be elsewhere. Operations have to be cancelled as a result – 300 in the space of four months – with the knock-on problems for waiting lists.

And with a growing elderly population, the problem will only get worse unless radical action is taken.

The solution cannot purely rest with the overstretched NHS and cannot be solved simply by throwing money at the problem – although that will certainly help.

It will take a joint approach involving the city council and the Scottish Government to navigate the route out of what has become something of a vicious circle.

Edinburgh has a severe shortage of affordable care home places.

The higher cost of property means the city struggles to attract private care home operators, with many instead closing to be turned into housing.

High-profile scandals have led to closures which have only exacerbated the situation.

The city council can ill afford to start building more.

We need the Scottish Government to recognise Edinburgh’s unique situation as it helps find and fund the cure.

The political will should be there – health was a key battleground in the independence referendum debate and, given today’s warnings, there will be few more serious issues than the situation in NHS Lothian for Holyrood to consider.

Bed blocking may not be a new problem but it is certainly time for a new solution.