Miles Briggs: SNP a block on problem of hospital beds

NHS Lothian is responsible for around a quarter of all delayed discharge cases in Scotland at any one time. Picture: PA
NHS Lothian is responsible for around a quarter of all delayed discharge cases in Scotland at any one time. Picture: PA
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Now that the worst of the winter appears to be over, the temperature slowly increasing and the threat of flu and other festive bugs abating, it’s time to reflect on how the NHS has performed.

It’s no surprise that winter throws up more challenges than any other season. It’s a traditionally challenging time across the continent. But across Scotland, things were as bad as ever. Accident and emergency waiting times were their worst ever, with thousands of people in the Capital being force to wait longer than the generally-accepted four hours for treatment in casualty.

Miles Briggs is a Scottish Conservative Lothians MSP and shadow health secretary. Picture: Greg Macvean

Miles Briggs is a Scottish Conservative Lothians MSP and shadow health secretary. Picture: Greg Macvean

And somehow, this record low was achieved by the SNP government in a month (December) when there were fewer attendances than some of the summer months.

At the same time, social care services continue to struggle, with care home places at a premium and health and social care staff working under more pressure than ever.

Many of these challenges – like seasonal infections and weather-related challenges – are unavoidable.

But there is one issue, which stands right in the centre, with hospital availability at one side and the standard of social care at the other. That is the topic of delayed discharge, where a patient is physically fit to leave hospital but has nowhere to go.

It’s not a new issue and has been centre of the news agenda since before the SNP came to power in 2007.

It really is a key issue.

If delayed discharge is a problem, its consequences spread to A&E at one side, and integrated health and social care at the other.

We can see from the most recent figures, despite this being a supposed priority for the SNP government, that there is next to no sign of improvement. It is estimated that NHS Lothian is responsible for around a quarter of all delayed discharge cases in Scotland at any one time.

In November, 310 people were stuck in hospital despite being fit to leave in the Lothians, with the vast majority awaiting a care package or place at a home. Of these, 39 were waiting between three and five months, 11 between six and 11 months, and five for more than a year.

The consequence for hospitals is huge. In November, that accounted for 8709 bed days, or around 290 a day.

These figures should really pound the message home to the SNP government: if you sort out delayed discharge, you sort out a plethora of other problems the NHS and local authorities are experiencing.

It’s been a scourge for patients and hospital managers for more than a decade now.

It’s an ailment which is well overdue a remedy.

Miles Briggs is a Scottish Conservative Lothians MSP and shadow health secretary.