Tory spokesman Sandesh Gulhane and SNP Minister Shona Robison.
By Bill Heaney
At least 3,202 patients in Scotland have died while waiting to be discharged from hospital since the SNP promised to end delayed discharge nearly eight years ago.
In February 2015, then-Health Secretary Shona Robison said that she would eradicate delayed discharge, or bed blocking, by the end of that year.
But new figures obtained by Scottish Conservative Freedom of Information requests show that the number of patients who have died in hospital after being declared medically fit for discharge has soared.
In 2022 so far, 432 patients declared fit for discharge have died in hospital – a 175% increase on 2015. The highest number of delayed-discharge deaths was recorded in 2019 – 566, which is over three-and-a-half times more than in 2015.
The figures come after delayed discharged reached its worst level on record, according to stats published last week. They show that an average of 1,832 beds were occupied each day in September by patients who needn’t have been in hospital.
Scottish Conservative Shadow Health Secretary, Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP said: “The SNP’s promise to eradicate delayed discharge has proven to be completely worthless.
“The SNP knew the scale of the problem back in 2015. Yet instead of taking concrete action to tackle it, they sat on their hands and allowed more than 3,000 patients to die awaiting discharge in the last eight years.
“These are patients who were medically fit to go back to their homes and loved ones, but who ended up dying still stuck in hospital because vital social-care support was not available to them.
“This is deeply distressing for patients and heart-breaking for their families – but the knock-on effects of ‘bed blocking’ are felt right across our NHS, as patients in desperate need of hospital beds can’t get them.
“Scotland’s social care sector needs urgent help, yet instead of putting funding and support back into frontline care, the SNP are rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic with their wasteful National Care Service plans.
“Humza Yousaf should take these shocking figures as a wake-up call, U-turn on the National Care Service, and take concrete action to finally make good on this eight-year-old promise.”
The average number of beds occupied per day due to delayed discharges is at its worst ever level. On average 1,832 beds were occupied per day due to delayed discharge in September 2022, the highest figure since the current guidance came into place in July 2016. This is an increase of 2% compared to last month when the daily average was 1,798, and 13.4% on September last year when the daily average was 1,615. (Delayed discharges in NHSScotland monthly, 1 November 2022, link).
In 2015, Shona Robison said she was determined to ‘eradicate delayed discharge out of the system’.Speaking on Good Morning Scotland in February 2015, Shona Robison said, “I want over the course of this year to eradicate delayed discharge out of the system … I am absolutely determined to do that.” (Scottish Parliamentary Debate Delayed Discharge, 7 June 2018, link).
Please see below a table of annual deaths in hospital of patients declared medically fit for discharge since 2015:
|HEALTH BOARD||2015||2016||2017||2018||2019||2020||2021||2022 to date||TOTALS|
|NHS Ayrshire & Arran||23||16||16||59||62||41||41||56||314|
|NHS Dumfries & Galloway||3*||6||11||10||3*||6||9||8||56|
|NHS Forth Valley||19||18||34||30||28||22||47||36||234|
|NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde||55||43||43||42||67||70||71||58||449|
|NHS Western Isles||13||11||7||6||12||5||8||8||70|
* Where the values of statistics fall below 5 but are greater than 0, they were often represented by ‘<5’ by the Health Boards in their responses to prevent the identification of individuals. Where a ‘<5’ value was received, it has been inputTed in the above table as ‘3*’. (Scottish Conservative FOI, available on request)