Bed blocking crisis in Dumfries and Galloway due to care worker shortage

Bed blocking is putting the NHS In Dumfries and Galloway under stress.

More than 80 patients fit to go home are stuck in hospital this week as Dumfries and Galloway's healthcare system struggles under ongoing pressure.

And the man in charge of the district's health board has admitted that the serious problem won't be resolved any time soon because the health and social care parnership is short of nearly 200 care workers.

Jeff Ace, chief executive of NHS Dumfries and Galloway, said: "This is going to be a continuing battle for us to generate capacity in the community that allows us to discharge everyone home from hospital the minute they're clinically suitable."

Delayed discharge -also known as 'bed blocking' - is when a patient is medically cleared to go home but cannot leave hospital, often because a social care package is not in place.

Last month, it was revealed that a patient spent more than 600 days in one of the region's hospitals despite being given the all-clear to go home due to delayed discharge.

Mr Ace gave a performance update at a health board meeting and gave a stark assessment of the bed blocking crisis.

He said: "With delayed discharges, we do have one of the more significant problems in NHS Scotland.

"Although the December figures are showing a slight drop, January figures again have continued an upward trend - to the extent that we have over 80 delayed discharges in the system at the moment.

"This is a really tough one to crack. There will not be a fast resolution to this.

"It's down to that fundamental capacity in the community to provide care packages.

He added: "We're again working with partners across the health and social care partnership around recruitment, around further job applications, trying to fast-track new capacity into this.

"But we're well over 100 and close to 200 full-time carers short of the capacity that we would need on an ongoing basis."

Mr Ace also said there were problems finding beds in care homes, which was also making the problem worse.

While the health board is performing reasonably well in delivering cancer services and "slightly below" targets for treatment time guarantees, Mr Ace also highlighted that non-urgent elective surgeries are having to be cancelled because of a beds shortage.

"It's something that, when coming out of the pandemic, we've got to have a very, very strong plan to recapture and reprioritise that elective work," he said.

"We've got a real mountain to climb in terms of orthopaedics to recapture where we want to be in terms of minimising wait.

"Although it's classed occasionally as a non-urgent procedure, a number of these patients are going to be in significant pain. They're going to be significantly disadvantaged in terms of their mobility and their independence as they wait for these interventions.

"Whether that's through our musculo-skeletal service or through ultimately to the clinical operation. We should be seeing this now as a significant added health burden for those individuals, and for us as a region."