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Friday, 30 September 2005 10:48
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Bed blocking reaches peak
The availability of hospital beds in Scotland is under threat from an increases in bed blocking, with many patients waiting more than six weeks to be discharged, new figures have revealed.

In total, 1,465 patients were ready to leave hospital in July, compared to 1,332 three months previously, and some 753 of them had been ready for discharge for more than six weeks, compared to 636 in April.

But Scottish Executive figures suggest that bed blocking where beds are taken up by elderly patients who are ready to leave but have nowhere to go has actually decreased over the past year.

In July last year, the number of patients ready for discharge stood at 1,827, with 1,040 having been ready to leave for more than six weeks.

Deputy health minister Lewis Macdonald said the latest figures were a seasonal peak: "It is important to note that the figures in this census are 20 per cent below the position a year ago," he said. "Despite an increase in the July census compared to the previous quarter, we do expect partnerships to be back on track by October.

"The figures released show that the number of patients whose discharge is delayed has halved since we launched our action plan in March 2002."

He added that ministers were spending 30 million per year until 2007 to tackle the problem.

"And we expect partnerships to meet the target of achieving a further 20 per cent year-on-year reduction by April 2006," he said.

A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association Scotland said: "We generally welcome the overall reduction in the number of delayed discharges since the same time last year.

"However, despite the overall downward trend, mid-year fluctuations mean that patients can still face long waits to return home.

"Delayed discharge is not just a problem for acute hospitals. Patients who are in post-acute care often face long periods of delay to be discharged to their own homes, nursing or care homes.

"Failure to make adequate and timely arrangements to discharge patients creates bottle-necks that often disrupt entire hospitals and adds to the stress suffered by patients, who find themselves stuck in hospital.

"If patients are not discharged, new patients who require medical attention cannot be admitted.

"Delayed discharge will only be eliminated for good when the NHS is adequately resourced and capacity meets demand."


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