Bed blocking 'out of control' as Edinburgh delayed discharge cost £20m last year

BED blocking is “spiralling out of control” as a rise is delayed discharges in the Capital’s hospitals cost more than £20m last year.

Tuesday, 17th September 2019, 5:46 pm
Bed blocking has increased in Edinburgh and across the Lothians from last year

New statistics have revealed that the number of delayed discharge days in NHS Lothian, when a hospital patient continues to occupy a bed despite being able to be discharged, has risen from 110,786 in 2016/17 to 120,210 in 2017/18 and to 124,048 for the 2018/19. Last year’s NHS Lothian figure of 124,048 tallied up an estimated cost of £30.8m and was more than 12 per cent of the total overall bed days.

In Edinburgh, the number of lost days due to delayed discharge has also increased from 72,914 in 2016/17 to 76,933 in 18/19 and 81,071 last year – costing £20.1m. Nationally, bed blocking has increased by six per cent in the space of a year.

In the 18/19 financial year, the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership recorded a rate of 1,621 delayed discharge bed days per 1,000 population aged 75 and over – only behind Western Isles authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar as the worst in Scotland.

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Age Scotland’s chief executive, Brian Sloan, said the increase “puts more older people at risk of mobility loss, infection, and loneliness”.

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He added: “These figures are deeply worrying, but not surprising. They reinforce what we’ve been saying for the last year, which is that social care is under immense pressure.

“Many people end up in hospital for weeks, and some quite possibly spending the end of their lives feeling isolated on hospital wards instead of in the comfort of familiar surroundings. If this number of children were stuck on hospital wards then there would quite rightly be a national outrage.

“Despite the Scottish Government’s repeated promises to tackle delayed discharges, these figures show that the problem is spiralling out of control. We urgently need more investment in our social care system, so that every older person can access the care they are entitled to.”

Miles Briggs, Scottish Conservative Lothian MSP, accused the Scottish Government of “profound and ongoing mismanagement” of the NHS.

He added: “Across Edinburgh and the Lothians we have a social care crisis which is the main reason that delayed discharge is so high for NHS Lothian. SNP Ministers have been made very aware of this crisis, but are refusing to raise a finger to help struggling integration joint boards in the region.

“For those stuck in hospital beds unnecessarily, staff and patients who need those beds, these delays are frustrating and traumatic. The SNP’s failure to eradicate delayed discharge is robbing NHS Lothian of over 12 percent of its bed capacity just as the number of beds in our NHS continues to fall.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, Alex Cole-Hamilton, has called for NHS and council staff to be given more support from the Scottish Government.

The Edinburgh Western MSP said: “While some of these extended hospital stays will be due to complex conditions, far too many are because there isn’t enough capacity to take care of people in the community.

“Some patients are there for hundreds of days after medical staff have declared them well enough to leave.

“It’s time for the SNP to step in and assist hard-working staff, especially given that they promised to eradicate delayed discharges years ago. That starts with publishing the integrated workforce plan that was due last year.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Progress has been made in reducing delays in discharge in recent years, with an overall reduction of one per cent in the number of bed days lost since 2016-17. However, we need to do more with our partners in local government, the NHS, and in integration authorities to address where delays have increased and work to improve performance.

“It is vital that local health and social care partnerships keep developing a range of community based services which allow people to stay in their homes.”

Judith Proctor, chief officer for the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, said reducing the number of delayed discharges was a “top priority”.

She added: “Edinburgh has seen an improving trend over this year against a national picture of increases across Scotland.

“We have a clear programme of work focused on reducing our delays further and we’re seeing those people who are waiting, being delayed for shorter periods of time and getting home – or to a homely setting – sooner.”