South Scotland MSP raises 'significant concern' about delayed discharge in Borders

Borders General Hospital near Melrose.

A South Scotland MSP has raised "significant concern" about the impact of delayed discharge of patients from hospital in the Borders.

Craig Hoy spoke of his concerns following a visit to Borders General Hospital near Melrose.

He found that 80 out of 310 beds were occupied by patients ready to be discharged.

During his visit to the hospital, Mr Hoy met with the Chief Executive of NHS Borders, Ralph Robert, and board Chair Karen Hamilton, along with frontline hospital staff.

Craig Hoy discussed pressures facing the hospital’s emergency department, elective surgery department and medical assessment unit ahead of this winter when patient numbers are expected to increase.

The South Scotland MSP recently warned Members of the Scottish Parliament about the impact of delayed discharge on the NHS during a parliamentary debate, saying: “Problems seen in A&E, through the wards and down to the step-down Borders View interim care facility reflect the very real pressures that our local health service is facing.

"Particularly in social care and care at home. Many hospital patients who are ready to be discharged are being forced to wait several weeks and sometimes, sadly, months for care packages to be discharged from hospital.

“At the time of my visit, sadly, 80 out of 310 beds were occupied by patients ready to be discharged, and this was creating bottlenecks throughout the hospital, and despite the huge efforts of staff, this is still resulting in elective surgeries being cancelled.

“Alongside the Board Chair Karen Hamilton, I visited the Medical Assessment Unit, and this is supposed to signpost patients to a ward or another setting within 72 hours. Yet last week, there were five patients receiving end-of-life care in this unit.

“With winter on the horizon, I am very concerned that there is no further capacity to flex within the system."

Mr Hoy has also raised pressures facing GP surgeries. 

He recently met with GPs at Earlston Medical Practice who warned that they are increasingly being asked to deliver secondary care in a primary care setting.

Hoy added: "This problem has come about through no fault of NHS staff whatsoever. It is simply because of capacity problems in the system. The Scottish Government is clearly to blame here."

Craig Hoy MSP continued: “For those with loved ones ready to be discharged from hospital, it is imperative that they be allowed to be discharged home or into care in a timely manner to allow other patients bed space for treatment.

"A hospital is not a safe place for a loved one to remain in long-term should they be ready to be discharged.

“Ongoing delayed discharge issues at Borders General Hospital is a matter of significant concern which could have a devasting impact on patients as we head into the winter period.

"I will continue to press the Scottish ministers to use the powers they have to address workforce, funding and capacity issues affecting the Borders health service and social care sector."

A statement from the Scottish Borders Health & Social Care Partnership said: “We continue to experience significant pressure throughout the health and social care system, in addition to an increase in demand for these services.

"This pressure has resulted in many people staying in hospital for long periods of time after they are medically fit to be discharged whilst they wait for care in the community. 

“The social care sector has also been under pressure from a workforce perspective which has a knock-on effect on the capacity to care for people in the community; at home or in care home facilities.

“We are working with teams across the Health & Social Care Partnership and with our wider partners to resolve this issue.

"We have developed a surge plan as we head into winter which will focus on keeping people well in the community, improve discharge from hospital and includes a £1.9m additional investment into capacity for social care for older adults.

"As a result, we expect to see a reduction in bed occupancy and delayed discharges. This will allow for more people to receive the right care in the right place.”

A Scottish Government statement said: “We are working hard with health boards and health and social care partnerships to create the necessary capacity to deal with emerging pressures through our Delayed Discharge and Hospital Occupancy Action Plan.

"This will help ensure patients are assessed and discharged with the appropriate care package as quickly as possible.”

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