Paying for patients who can’t leave ward

The widening gap between rising demand for social care and its availability is impacting on efforts to cut the number of people stuck in hospital.
The widening gap between rising demand for social care and its availability is impacting on efforts to cut the number of people stuck in hospital.

Delayed discharges of patients from hospital has cost NHS Borders £2.5million in the past year, accounting for 11,565 days of beds being blocked.

A delayed discharge is a hospital inpatient who is clinically ready for discharge from inpatient hospital care and who continues to occupy a hospital bed beyond the ready for discharge date.

This happens for several reasons, mostly because there is nowhere for the patient to go, due to social care issues or delays in assessing care requirements.

Labour MSPs this week blamed the Scottish Government for the failure to tackle the issue, despite Health Secretary Shona Robison’s promise in 2015 to get rid of delayed discharges completely.

South Scotland Labour list MSP Colin Smyth, also his party’s spokesperson for social care, said: “These figures reveal the huge cost to the NHS in the Borders because of the SNP’s failure on delayed discharge.

“The SNP promised to abolish delayed discharge completely. Instead, it has cost £2.5m in the past year in the Borders alone.

“The system is unsustainable. The SNP government cannot continue to slash the budgets of local councils who provide the services that people rely on and not expect it to have a knock-on effect to our health service.”

Fellow South Scotland Labour list MSP Claudia Beamish added: “We would end the cuts to our councils and deliver a national guarantee for care workers. Labour would ensure all care workers are given appropriate training and paid the living wage.”

A spokesperson for NHS Borders said that the health board was working with its partners to ease the problem.

The spokesperson stated: “Patients delayed unnecessarily in hospital is a significant issue for us, our patients and their families, and also for patients awaiting admission for treatment.

“We saw a 44% increase in our occupied bed days in 2016-17 compared to the year before for patients who were ready to leave hospital.

“We are currently working with our partners at Scottish Borders Council and the integration joint board to provide better out-of-hospital care.

“This is in addition to a range of programmes we are supporting in the community to encourage good health and wellbeing to reduce the need to go to hospital in the first place.”

NHS Scotland estimates that it costs £214 a day to keep a patient in hospital who is medically cleared to return home, adding up to £100m a year across Scotland.