Bed blocking costs Scottish NHS more than £100 million a year

Simon Johnson
Bed blocking is costing the Scottish NHS more than £100 million a year, according to Labour - PA

Bed blocking by hospital patients who are ready to go home cost the Scottish NHS more than £100 million over the past year despite the SNP’s promise to abolish the scourge, according to new figures.

Labour published an analysis based on official figures showing 511,972 bed days were lost to “delayed discharge” in Scotland’s hospitals between September 2016 and August this year.

With NHS Scotland estimating that it costs £214 per day to keep a patient in hospital who is medically cleared to return home, the analysis calculated that the burden for the past year totalled £110 million.

The most common cause of delay is there being a lack of care in the community for elderly patients, meaning they have to continue using a hospital bed that could be allocated to someone else.

Labour blamed the huge cost on the SNP government’s decision to cut local authority budgets by £1.5 billion since 2011 and highlighted a promise by Shona Robison, the Health Minister, to “eradicate” the problem by the end of 2015.

Ms Robison also came under increased pressure over increasing GP shortages, with the Tories disclosing that up to 3,000 family doctors have left Scotland in the past decade.

Launching a campaign called “Save our Surgeries”, the Scottish Conservatives said more than 12,500 doctors have requested the certificate required to work abroad in the past two years alone.

Shona Robison is facing more criticism over her stewardship of the Scottish NHS Credit: Andrew MacColl/REX Shutterstock

The double attack on the SNP’s management of Scotland’s NHS, which is under severe financial pressure, came after an official audit in July warned it is at risk of major staff shortages thanks to ministers’ poor planning.

Although one of the SNP’s flagship health policies to cope with an ageing population is shifting care from hospitals to the community, Audit Scotland found that until recently there was no workforce plan and the vacancy rate for nurses, midwives and consultants has spiked.

Unveiling Labour’s research, Colin Smyth, the party’s social care spokesman, said: “The SNP promised to abolish delayed discharge; instead it has cost our health service more than £100 million in the past year.

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

He said many of the delayed discharges are thanks to cuts in social care and delays in patient assessments of what care they require in the community or a home for them to be allowed out of hospital.

The Scottish Tories have published figures suggesting up to 3,000 GPs have moved abroad Credit: PA

The Conservatives obtained figures from the General Medical Council showing 5,044 GPs have requested a Certificate of Current Professional Status (CCPS) since 2008, the document required by doctors who want to work abroad.

The highest two years were 2015 and 2016, when 663 and 612 doctors respectively applied for a CCPS. They said 2,149 are “likely” to still be practicing in Scotland, leaving 2,895 who are “almost certain to be working abroad.”

The figures were published after the Royal College of GPs warned that Scotland would soon be short of 850 family doctors, with up to a third (1,500) expected to retire by 2020.

Unveiling his party’s campaign, Miles Briggs, the Shadow Health Minister, said the research sets “out starkly the brain drain we have seen in Scotland over the last decade” and called for a greater proportion of NHS spending to go on GPs.

He said: “Of course every part of the UK has lost doctors to countries like Australia and New Zealand in recent years. But rather than point the finger elsewhere, the SNP must act on these figures and do more encourage doctors to come back – or not leave in the first place.”

Ms Robison said the number of bed days lost to delays had fallen by eight per cent between August 2016 and 2017.

She added: “No one should wait longer than absolutely necessary to leave hospital and that’s why we have legislated to integrate health and social care to ensure services are planned and commissioned in a joined up way from a single budget.

“This year, almost half a billion pounds of additional investment will go into social care and integration while the health revenue budget will increase by almost £2 billion by 2021.”

Responding to the Tory figures, the Health Minister said direct support for general practice will increase by £250 million by the end of this parliament and she is working with the British Medical Association on a new GP contract.

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