Task force set up but Lothian figures more than double
The NHS and Scotland’s councils are to work together to tackle the growing numbers of delayed discharges but opposition politicians argue that more urgency is needed to address the issue. NHS Lothian is one of four health board to miss discharge targets.
While delayed discharge has fallen by a third since 2006, the latest statistics show this continues to be challenging, with a significant number of people delayed due to a lack of availability of care in the community.
Health Secretary Alex Neil wrote to local authority and health board partnerships earlier this week, urging them to use the £5 million funding recently announced by the Scottish Government to address the reasons for the delays.
Mr Neil said: “We have come a considerable way in tackling this problem, with comparable figures for 2006 showing three times as many people were delayed for over four weeks.
“However, it’s disappointing that some patients are still delayed for lengthy periods in our hospitals. Remaining in hospital, when clinically ready to leave, is frustrating for individuals and can pose challenges in ensuring effective patient flow through the hospital.
“Integration of health and social care will be key to driving down delays, and we are working with COSLA to deliver integration for the benefit of people across Scotland. We recently announced an additional £5 million to be targeted at the areas with the greatest challenges. This money will be used by seven NHS and local authority partnerships to reduce delays and release hospital capacity.
“Legislation to implement health and social care comes into full force in April next year, but we need not wait to make progress. COSLA and I are agreed that we need immediate improvements and NHS Boards and local authorities recognise the need to work together now to make sure people do not have wait in hospital any longer than is necessary.”
Cllr Peter Johnston, COSLA’s Health and Well-being Spokesperson, added: “I’ve just visited a District General Hospital in my own Health Board area and know from that just how hard nurses, clinicians, social workers and managers are working to facilitate the transfer of people waiting for discharge back to their own homes or into a care home. This is a priority of the first order – we know that for older people in particular, a delay of longer than 72 hours can have an impact on their health and well-being.
“We in COSLA are determined to make further progress on discharge arrangements. We are fully committed to the work of the task force, and believe that innovation in discharge protocols and in commissioning practice will deliver some of the progress needed. This will all take place within emerging health and social care partnerships and we hope to get to a position in time where service redesign can build community capacity to ensure that people are only admitted to hospital because they really need to be there and are then discharged speedily back to their own homes.”
Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone believes the government must step up its response to the problem of delayed discharges in the region’s hospitals.
New figures show the number of patients having to wait longer than four weeks to be discharged from hospitals in Lothian has more than doubled in a year. In July this year there were 83 such patients, compared to 39 in April and 37 in July last year.
Alison Johnstone initially raised the issue of delayed discharges with Health Secretary Alex Neil in parliament back in May.
Commenting on the latest figures, she said: “While I appreciate we won’t see a solution overnight it’s a real concern that these figures aren’t improving. I have raised the issue with the health secretary and I’m aware of some distressing and frustrating situations in Lothian region affecting elderly people and their families.
“The Scottish Government and local authorities must step up their action to ensure patients who are ready to be looked after out of hospital aren’t left waiting. We must ensure adequate care home places and care-at-home packages so that people are treated with respect and that our health service resources are being used to best effect.”