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Delayed discharges ‘out of control’ in Scotland

September 19, 2019

Older people’s charity Age Scotland, has described NHS Scotland figures on delayed discharge from hospital as “spiralling out of control” and has called for a review of health and care provision across the country.

Figures released on Tuesday (mid-September) have shown that delayed hospital discharges across Scotland have increased by 6% between 2017/18 and 2018/19. This accounts for 1 in 12 beds being occupied by people who do not need to be in hospital, but cannot yet be discharged for varied reasons.

NHS Scotland’s report also highlights that of those delayed, 69% were aged 75 and over. The figures follow reports a week earlier that nearly 500 people died in Scottish hospitals last year while waiting to be discharged.

The charity’s chief executive Brian Sloan said the 6% rise in delayed discharges meant more older people were at risk of mobility loss, infection, and loneliness for every day they remained in hospital.

“These figures are deeply worrying, but not surprising,” said Mr Sloan.

“They reinforce what we’ve been saying for the last year, which is that social care is under immense pressure. On average, 78% of delays were due to health and social care reasons, with 26% of delays due to people waiting for care home availability, and 16% of delay reasons due to awaiting a community care assessment. Our Waiting For Care report, published this summer, found that four in 10 older people are waiting longer than the recommended guidelines for care they are entitled to and desperately need.

“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.

“In 2017/18 the estimated cost of delayed discharges in NHS Scotland was £122m, with an estimated average daily cost of £248. This is outrageously more expensive than social care which sees local authorities paying roughly the same amount (£253) per week for personal and nursing care.”

A Scottish government spokesperson said more than £700m was being allocated to support social care and integration in 2019/20, an increase of 29%.

“We continue to work closely with health and social care partnerships to ensure the good practice which exists in many areas is spread across Scotland,” the spokesperson said.

“In addition, we are working with Cosla (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities), unpaid carers, people who use services and the social services sector to take forward a national programme to support local reform of adult social care support.”

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