Patient enduring six-year hospital discharge delay, figures reveal

Sandesh Gulhane, health spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said the figures are “apalling and mind-blowing”.
Sandesh Gulhane, health spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said the figures are “apalling and mind-blowing”.

A hospital patient has seen their discharge delayed by more than six years, new figures reveal.

Freedom of information requests obtained by the Scottish Conservatives revealed one NHS Grampian patient has been waiting 2312 days to be discharged.

Meanwhile, in Greater Glasgow and Clyde another patient had their discharge delayed by 1810 days - or more than five years.

It is understood the majority of delays are caused by patients awaiting a care home place or a social care package at home.

The figures showed patients waited an average of 23 days to leave hospital in the 12 months to June 2022.

It is estimated to cost the NHS £142 million per year, or £262 per night per bed, according to Public Health Scotland.

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Sandesh Gulhane, health spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said the figures are “mind-blowing”.

He said: “These astonishing figures spell out the crippling reality of delayed discharge on Scotland’s interlined NHS and social care system – and they ought to shame SNP ministers.

“It’s appalling and mind-blowing to think that a patient could be stuck in hospital for more than six years simply because there is nowhere for them to go.

“The mental and physical toll that must have taken on them doesn’t bare thinking about.

“But the suffering of stranded patients is only one of the devastating impacts of delayed discharge.”

He said the issue not only highlights the failings of the social care system in Scotland but also has ramifications across the NHS, including increased A&E waits and cancelled or delayed operations.

Dr Gulhane said: “There’s the enormous financial burden on NHS budgets, as well as the knock-on effects on the A&E waiting times crisis and the huge operations backlog caused by the reduced number of available beds.

“Successive SNP health secretaries have promised for years to eradicate delayed discharge but have singularly failed to do so – and patients, not to mention taxpayers, are suffering as a result.

“This problem stems from a shortage of care home places or social care packages enabling patients to return to their own homes.

“Yet instead of focusing precious resources at a local level, the SNP are diverting £1.3 billion away from the frontline to set up a National Care Service controlled by ministers and lacking local accountability.”

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A spokesperson for NHS Grampian said: “We are not able to discuss individual patient cases.

“Generally speaking, patients’ needs for safe discharge vary widely. Where more complex needs are involved, it can be extremely challenging to provide appropriate levels of care away from a hospital setting.

“We are actively working to ensure we achieve the principles within the recently published ‘Coming Home Implementation Report’.”

A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde aims to discharge all patients into the community as soon as it is clinically appropriate to do so, and as such each patient’s requirement to be in hospital is kept under regular review.

“Due to patient confidentiality we are unable to discuss individual cases, but we would urge all patients to engage with us directly to discuss any queries they may have.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We continue to work with health and social care partnerships to reduce delays in people leaving hospital, ensuring people are cared for in the right setting and beds are there for those who need them.

“Latest published data, between April and December 2021, shows 97% of discharges were discharged without delay.”

She pointed to the Scottish Government’s £62 million funding to enhance Care at Home capacity and £48 million to increase hourly pay for social care staff, and its efforts to “scale up” Hospital at Home services to reduce acute admissions and support timely discharge.

“We have recruited more than 1,000 additional healthcare support staff since last October, with many working in community and social care,” she added.

“Ministers continue to meet regularly with the partnerships facing the most significant challenges to discuss progress and challenges.

“In addition, £20 million from the Community Living Change Fund was allocated to Integration Authorities across Scotland to aid in discharging those who have endured long stays in a hospital setting and to design community-based solutions that negate or limit future hospital use.”