'Bed blocking' on the rise in Scottish hospitals

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The number of Scottish hospital beds being "blocked" by delayed discharges has risen, according to the latest statistics.

A delayed discharge is where a patient continues to occupy a hospital bed despite being clinically able to be discharged.

The figures showed delayed discharges cost NHS Scotland a total of 521,772 bed days last year.

This is a 6% increase from the previous year when the figure was 494,123.

Of the number of beds "blocked" in 2018/19, 69% were occupied by people aged 75 years and over.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said "progress has been made" in reducing delays but more needed to be done with local government, the NHS and integration authorities.

ISD Scotland estimates that the cost of delayed discharges in NHS Scotland between 2017/18 was £122m - with an estimated average bed day cost of £248.

The average daily number of delayed discharge beds occupied in 2018/19 was 1,430.

Delay factors

Reasons given for delays include patients awaiting completion of care arrangements, awaiting place availability and complex delay reasons.

Funding, transport, patient and family reasons were also cited in the report as contributing factors in delays.

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon blamed Health Secretary Jeane Freeman for the rise in bed days.

She said: "Jeane Freeman was supposed to fix the problems in health and social care not make them worse.

Meanwhile Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said: "The SNP's failure to eradicate delayed discharge is robbing NHS Scotland of almost 10% of its bed capacity just as the number of beds in our NHS continues to fall."

And Scottish Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton called on the Scottish government to publish its integrated workforce plan.

He added: "It's time for the SNP to step in and assist hardworking staff, especially given that they promised to eradicate delayed discharges years ago."

'Immense pressure'

The Scottish government spokeswoman said: "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.

"We continue to invest in social care and integration, and this year our package of investment to support these services will exceed £700m - up from £550m in 2018-19."

Earlier this year a report by Age Scotland found that 40% of older people are waiting longer than the recommended guidelines for care.

Age Scotland said the "bed blocking" increase was "substantial" and put older patients at risk of mobility loss, infection and loneliness while delayed in hospital.

The charity's chief executive Brian Sloan said: "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.

"We urgently need more investment in our social care system, so that every older person can access the care they are entitled to."

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