Mental health patient stuck in hospital for ten years due to delayed discharge crisis

By Bill Heaney

Hundreds of mental health patients are needlessly stuck in Scottish hospitals due to a lack of available care packages – with one having waited close to a DECADE already.

The figures – obtained by the Scottish Conservatives following Freedom of Information requests to health boards – reveal that 356 patients with mental health conditions are currently having their discharge delayed.

The true figure is likely to be higher, as two of the 11 mainland health boards did not respond (island health boards don’t house mental health inpatients).

The longest recorded wait was in NHS Lothian, where a patient has, so far, been stuck in hospital for between 3,000 and 3,500 days – up to nine-and-a-half years – since meeting the criteria for discharge.

The average discharge delay experienced by patients is 178 days – almost six months – but a patient in Fife has been stuck in hospital for more than six years, while waits of almost three years (and counting) were recorded in both Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Tayside.

Shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the “intolerable” figures were particularly concerning because those with mental health conditions were even more likely than other patients to be adversely affected by lengthy and needless hospital stays. 

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP, right, said: “These intolerable stats are both deeply concerning and a damning indictment of the SNP’s mismanagement of our NHS.

“Delayed discharge has knock-on effects across the health service – impacting on A&E waiting times and cancelled operations – but first and foremost it is soul-destroying for the patients directly concerned.

“It’s extremely distressing for anyone to be stuck in hospital when they are fit to leave but for vulnerable mental health patients it is especially damaging to their well-being.

“The fact that one patient has been unnecessarily holed-up in hospital for nigh-on a decade ought to shame Humza Yousaf and Co.

“The SNP’s abject failure to tackle delayed discharge – by ensuring social care packages are in place for patients capable of leaving hospital – continues to do enormous damage and must be tackled immediately.”  

As of March 2023, there were over 300 mental health patients whose discharge has been delayed across Scotland. Data from nine of Scotland’s 11 mainland health boards (island boards do not house mental health patients) revealed 356 mental health patients are currently in hospital, when they meet the criteria to be discharged, with an average delay of 178 days. (Scottish Conservative FOIs, available on request).

NHS Lothian had the longest current delay, between eight and nine years. NHS Lothian said one patient had had their discharged delayed between 3,000 and 3,500 days so far. NHS Lothian also had the highest number of mental health patients with a delayed discharge (96) and the longest average delay (336 days). (Scottish Conservative FOI, available on request).

NHS Fife had a current delay of over six years, whilst Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Tayside recorded waits of almost 3 years. The patient in Fife has had their discharge delayed by 2,489 days, whilst the patients in Glasgow and Tayside waited 1,080 and 1,061 days respectively. (Scottish Conservative FOIs, available on request).

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