Bill for bed blocking now over £500m since Sturgeon became FM, Labour claim

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman is being urged to make good on the Scottish Government's pledge to abolish bed blocking in hospitals, as new figures showed the problem has cost an estimated £500 million since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister.

Labour claimed the overall cost since November 2014 now amounted to £500,491,757 – stating this was the financial impact of the 2,164,928 hospital bed days lost since then because of patients who are medically ready to be discharged, but are waiting for care arrangements to be made.

The overall number of bed days lost because of delayed discharge had been falling, from 567,853 in 2015-16 to 494,123 in 2017-18.

But in the six months between April and October 2018 a total of 307,027 bed days were lost, official NHS statistics showed.

Ms Freeman's predecessor as health secretary, Shona Robison, previously said the Scottish Government wanted to eradicate the problem, also known as delayed discharge.

Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: "As we enter 2019, the Health Secretary should make and keep a simple New Year's resolution – finally make good on the SNP's pledge to eradicate delayed discharge from our hospitals.

"Failing to put enough investment into social care is a political choice that has let thousands of people down and has put unnecessary pressure on our hospitals.

"The cost of that choice is over half a billion pounds to our health service, with people trapped in hospital when they don't need to be there.

"This additional strain on our NHS impacts on performance and leads to longer waiting times. If the Health Secretary is serious about ending the mismanagement of the NHS, she'll put a stop to delayed discharges.

"Jeane Freeman must step up in 2019 and commit to leaving delayed discharge firmly in the past."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We have been clear that it is not acceptable for people to be delayed in hospital after treatment is completed.

"Our integration of health and social care, along with the investment of nearly half a billion pounds this year, rising to more than £700 million next year, will bring about longer term sustainable improvement.

"The Health Secretary has set out that she wants to see the pace of progress on integration accelerated and we will continue to work closely with those partnerships facing the most significant challenges.

"In particular, to see those actions proven to have worked in better performing partnerships adopted in every area."