NHS: Scottish government must help, not hinder, charities working to tackle delayed discharge crisis in hospitals – Miles Briggs MSP

Over the last year and a half, we have all seen more than ever the importance of third sector organisations and volunteering.

Delayed discharges of patients well enough to leave but without a suitable place to go pose a serious problem for many hospitals (Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)

Throughout the pandemic, people across Scotland have stepped up and contributed their time, money and effort to support those who needed it.

Hundreds of thousands of people, who wouldn’t have been supported by regular services, were supported by charities.

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In Scotland, we are incredibly lucky to have so many excellent charities who work tirelessly to help people with different issues, from housing, to mental health, to managing finances.

During both lockdowns, charities were severely impacted by not being able to raise revenue through fundraising and collections in traditional ways.

As we are coming out of the pandemic, we still face many challenges and charities play a vital role in supporting people.

It is incredibly important that charities are given the necessary support by SNP and Green ministers, to allow them to help as many people as possible, and work to support the vital work of the NHS.

Services such as Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland’s hospital-to-home scheme and its volunteers help alleviate some of the burden on the health system, and they have been working with NHS Lothian to make progress. The service is designed to help support people discharged from hospital and reduce re-admissions to hospital.

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Across Scotland, we are currently facing a delayed discharge crisis, with the level of delayed discharge returning to pre-pandemic levels.

The number of people medically fit to leave hospital but without a place to go at the census point in August was 1,461. They had been delayed a total of 46,171 days, an increase of 43 per cent compared with the number of delayed days in August 2020.

In Edinburgh and the Lothians, the issue of delayed discharge is especially challenging, with higher levels of delayed discharge than any other health board in Scotland.

The number of delays rose to 7,495 days in NHS Lothian for August, with an average of 242 beds occupied every day. This compares to 4,738 days in August 2020, with an average of 153 beds a day occupied by delayed discharge. NHS Lothian and Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland have been working together to make sure their hospital-to-home service is available, to help make a difference.

Delayed discharge has a significant impact on all hospital activities, including A&E departments, as well as ambulance services. NHS Lothian recently recorded a record low of two out of three patients being seen within the four-hour standard at A&E departments.

One of the main reasons for delays in A&E departments is that there are not available beds in other parts of the hospital, when patients are medically fit to leave A&E, which is referred to as “exit block”. This also has an impact on the Scottish Ambulance Services, as ambulances are forced to wait for an available bed before they can go to their next call.

In some health boards in Scotland, charities are experiencing unnecessary challenges in integrating their work with the NHS because of damaging bureaucracy, such as having to negotiate different data-sharing agreements across Scotland for the same service.

It’s time that SNP and Green ministers started helping charities do their work, rather than hindering them.

Miles Briggs is a Conservative MSP for Lothian

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