Bed blocking on rise during Covid pandemic in Scotland

Delayed discharges totalled 358,426 days in the past year despite patients being moved out of hospitals to increase capacity during the coronavirus pandemic.

On average, there were 982 patients every day who were clinically ready for discharge from hospital taking up beds because of delays.

According to a Public Health Scotland annual report, the number of delayed discharges plummeted at the start of the pandemic as patients were moved or sent home to create space in preparation for dealing with those infected with Covid-19.

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Bed blocking has risen in Scotland during the Covid pandemic

Between March last year and April 2020, the average number of days of delayed discharge more than halved from 1,452 to 676.

But, since April 2020, delayed discharges increased in all but three months, reaching a peak of 1,135 per day in January 2021, followed by 1,088 daily cases and 1,092 delays in the final two months of the financial year.

NHS Scotland figures for the year ending March 31 also reveal 63 per cent of the occupied beds in delayed discharge cases were for people over 75, with the remaining 130,902 bed days (37 per cent ) occupied by people aged 18-74.

Almost a third (65 per cent) of delays were due to the health and social care system, with care arrangement delays responsible for 28 per cent of cases, a lack of availability in other settings such as care homes blamed for 22%, and patients awaiting community care assessments causing 15 per cent of delays.

There were 30 per cent described as “complex” delay reasons, such as awaiting a place in a specialist facility, where an interim move is not appropriate or if the person legally lacks the capacity to be moved.

Reasons such as patient and family-related delays, awaiting funding and transport, accounted for the other 5 per cent of delays.

Delayed discharges linked to mental health specialities accounted for 79,650 (22 per cent) of all the clinically-unnecessary prolonged stays across Scotland.

Across the whole year, the average daily number of delayed discharge beds occupied fell by 34 per cent compared to 2019/20, with the report stating: “This decrease will be influenced by the measures put in place to respond to Covid-19.”

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde is the health board with the highest average daily number of beds occupied by people who were delayed (234), followed by NHS Lothian with 141 and NHS Lanarkshire with 128.

NHS Shetland showed the lowest average daily number with one bed occupied per day by people delayed in their discharge and NHS Dumfries & Galloway is the lowest of the mainland health boards with 25 per day on average.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are committed to safely reducing delayed discharge because being at home or in a community setting is in the best interests of people who no longer require hospital treatment.

“Today’s report shows that there has been a 34 per cent reduction in bed days lost due to delays between March 2020 and March 2021. Clearly steps taken during the pandemic to protect patients and protect the NHS are being shown in today’s findings.

“We are clear that decisions about care and treatment should always be clinically based, in the individual’s best interests, and taken in consultation with the individual or their families and representatives.”

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