'Astonishing' NHS Scotland £1bn delayed discharge bill due to SNP neglect, say Labour

NHS Scotland has racked up a bill of more than £1bn due to the pressure caused by delayed discharge, with Scottish Labour blaming the figure on years of “SNP neglect”.

The SNP has been criticised for their leadership around the NHS.
The SNP has been criticised for their leadership around the NHS.

Figures released by Public Health Scotland and analysed by Anas Sarwar’s party show more than 4.6 million days have been lost in the health service due to delayed discharge since 2013/14.

Around one in every 14 beds is occupied by someone whose discharge is delayed.

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This where a patient is healthy enough to leave hospital, but issues such as social care problems, complex care issues such as mental health concerns, or family problems cause delays to their release.

Former health secretary Shona Robison pledged to end the practice in 2015, but Scottish Labour said more than £750m worth of NHS resource has been lost the practice since that date.

Around £100m was spent by the NHS in 2020/21 with almost 360,000 delayed discharge bed days at a cost of around £280 per day, the party said, with Public Health Scotland stating there were 14,375 delayed discharges last year.

This was alongside an average of 982 beds being occupied by delayed discharge patients, compared to 1,481 in 2019/20 and 1,430 in 2018/19, a decrease of 34 and 31 per cent respectively, but this is predominately due to Covid-19 measures.

Scottish Labour’s health and Covid recovery spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, said the bill exposed the “SNP’s abject failure” to deal with the problem.

She said: “This is a shameful waste of money, a burden on our already-strained NHS and an appalling way to treat patients.

“Years of neglect under the SNP has left social care on its knees, and our entire healthcare system is paying the price.

“It is plain wrong that people who are well enough to be cared for from home should be stuck in hospital waiting for a care package.”

She added: “This billion pounds could have transformed social care and helped pay staff a fair wage. It is a disgrace that it has been poured down the drain instead under the SNP’s watch.

“We need to act urgently to save our health and social care services before a full-scale winter crisis hits.

“Scottish Labour are clear that we need to build a real National Care Service, starting by paying staff a fair wage.”

Responding, a Scottish Government spokesperson said the NHS had faced “unprecedented pressures” during the pandemic while providing treatment and “optimal patient care”.

They said £300m has been announced to tackle capacity issues and reduce delayed discharge.

They added: “The Health Secretary has been very clear that this winter is likely to be the most challenging in the history of the NHS.

“We are working with boards to optimise discharge and reduce the length of time people need to spend in hospital which will in turn reduce delays in A&E. This includes £10 million for two new specialist programmes which will speed up the hospital discharge process or provide an alternative to hospital care altogether.

“Additional funding of up to £48 million will also be made available this financial year to enable employers to provide an uplift to the hourly rate of pay for staff offering Direct Care within Adult Social Care to a minimum £10.02 per hour.”

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