Patients spending longer in hospital due to delayed discharges, figures reveal

The number of days spent in hospital by people whose discharge was delayed has risen over the last year, according to official figures.

Statistics published by ISD Scotland show the number of days rose to 43,863 in January this year – an increase of 9% on the 40,152 days in January 2018.

The average number of beds occupied per day due to delayed discharges also increased between the end of 2018 and the start of 2019.

The daily average was  1,378 in December last year, which rose to 1,415 in the following month.

Of those who were delayed at the January 2019 census point, 1,156 were delayed for more than three days.

The most common reason for delays over three days was health and social care reasons (73%, 841), followed by complex needs (24%, 281), then patient and family-related reasons (3%, 34).

The Scottish Government has stated its commitment to reducing the number of delayed discharges and announced additional funding to support social care and integration in the Scottish budget for 2019/20.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “January saw increased levels of demand on hospital services and a subsequent increase in demand for social care services.

“However, I am still clear that the level of performance on delayed discharge across Scotland is not good enough.

“We are allocating more than £700 million to support social care and integration as part of our 2019-20 budget.

“We will continue to work with health and social care partnerships,  particularly those experiencing the greatest pressures, to ensure that people do not need to spend unnecessary time in hospital.

“This includes spreading good practice from the best performing partnerships, and ensuring this work is adopted by others.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said the figures highlight the pressures faced by NHS and social care workers.

“It’s atrocious that on any given day more than 1,100 people are stuck in hospital unnecessarily,” he said.

“The unavailability of community care packages is piling more pressure on beds in front line services.

“Timely discharge from hospital is an important indicator of the availability and quality of care within our health and social care services, but also critical to patient recovery.

“These figures show the pressure that hardworking NHS and social care staff are under.

“It’s essential that staff get the resources they need, as well as an exit from Brexit which threatens to drastically reduce staff numbers, making the situation even worse.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said the SNP had failed to tackle the issue of delayed discharges.

Mr Briggs said: “The SNP promised to eradicate delayed discharge but it is simply getting worse and worse on their watch.

“The SNP’s failure to tackle this properly creates sheer misery for thousands upon thousands of patients who are fit to leave but have nowhere to go and no care package in place.

“These figures also demonstrate how the integration of health and social care is not delivering the desired outcomes as SNP ministers look to cut local council budgets, directly impacting on delivering new models of care and integration on the ground.

“Increased levels of delayed discharge obviously causes capacity issues and worsens waiting times as vital hospital beds are being used by delayed discharge patients.

“Once again, it is quite clear the SNP cannot be trusted with our health service.

“The SNP have failed to address delayed discharge for over 12 years, they’ve had their chance.”

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