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NHS Highland delayed discharge having 'serious impact on staff' says Ross MP in call for action

By Scott Maclennan

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Raigmore Hospital is the region's main general hospital.
Raigmore Hospital is the region's main general hospital.

NHS Highland has the second worst average discharge delayed record in Scotland according to new figures revealed by the Liberal Democrats.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that NHS Highland patients were waiting an average of 32 days to be discharged from hospital in 2020/21.

The data showed that a total of 296 patients in Highland waited longer than three weeks to be discharged with only NHS Dumfries and Galloway worse with waits of 34.5 days.

Jamie Stone MP: 'Health and care services in Highland are under incredible pressure'.
Jamie Stone MP: 'Health and care services in Highland are under incredible pressure'.

Easter Ross MP Jamie Stone warned that such delays are having a “serious impact on staff and hospital resources.”

Recent figures from Public Health Scotland showed seven per cent of beds across NHS Scotland were occupied by people who were enduring delays in leaving hospital.

Of those 66 per cent met with delays due to health and social care reasons such as care packages not being available – something cited by NHS Highland.

Public Health Scotland estimates the cost of delayed discharges in NHS Scotland amounted to £142 million last year, with an average daily bed cost of £262.

Mr Stone said: “Our local health and care services in Highland are under incredible pressure.

“Lengthy delayed discharges mean disheartened patients needlessly taking up hospital beds, families waiting anxiously for their loved ones to come home, demands on staff time, and eye-watering extra costs.

"Health ministers have consistently failed to get a working system in place so that patients can move from hospital back into the community quickly and safely.

“Years of failure to get to grips with social care and community-based support is now crippling our local health system."

A NHS Highland spokesman said: “We monitor daily the challenges with delays and are continually revisiting the options open to us to improve this position.

“We have enhanced the team significantly to work on improving the experience of our patients with a dedicated discharge hub established in the Highland region to help facilitate this.

“There are a variety of reasons for delayed discharges. However, the current pressure relates to finding suitable onward placement or accommodation. Our system of health and care is under significant pressure and staffing remains an ongoing challenge in the care sector, and this is a prominent feature of concern at this time. We always aim to ensure that our patients are discharged to the right place to safely meet their unique needs and achieving this can take time.

“We also have a significant geographical challenge in placing people relative to where their families and friends are or where home is, this is important to get right in respect of the individuals and their families.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We remain in the midst of a global pandemic and Scotland's NHS is under more pressure than at any previous stage.

“We have announced significant additional funding to address this, including £62 million to enhance care at home, £48 million to increase the hourly rate of pay, £40 million to support interim care arrangements and £20 million to enhance multi-disciplinary teams.

“We have also recently launched our 'discharge without delay' programme, backed by £5 million, to help local health and social care partnerships improve discharge planning arrangements.

“We are working alongside our health boards, and local partners with urgency and pace to safely discharge people to their own homes, or to an appropriate care home or community setting. We are doing this in the best interests of the individual involved and to also help us maximise capacity during this time of extreme pressure within our NHS."

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