In response to new delayed discharge statistics, which suggest the number of people remaining in hospital following treatment has continued to rise since April 2014, the Scottish Government has announced the launch of a new taskforce to tackle the issue.
The taskforce, involving representatives from the Scottish Government, NHS, local government, the Care Inspectorate, the housing sector, independent care providers and the third sector, met for the first time last week.
This week, the Health Secretary Alex Neil wrote to local authority and health board partnerships urging them to use the £5 million funding recently announced by the Scottish Government to address the reasons for the delays.
Mr Neil said: “We have come a considerable way in tackling this problem, with comparable figures for 2006 showing three times as many people were delayed for over four weeks.
“However, it’s disappointing that some patients are still delayed for lengthy periods in our hospitals. Remaining in hospital, when clinically ready to leave, is frustrating for individuals and can pose challenges in ensuring effective patient flow through the hospital.
“Integration of health and social care will be key to driving down delays, and we are working with COSLA to deliver integration for the benefit of people across Scotland. We recently announced an additional £5 million to be targeted at the areas with the greatest challenges. This money will be used by seven NHS and local authority partnerships to reduce delays and release hospital capacity.
“Legislation to implement health and social care comes into full force in April next year, but we need not wait to make progress. COSLA and I are agreed that we need immediate improvements and NHS Boards and local authorities recognise the need to work together now to make sure people do not have wait in hospital any longer than is necessary.”
Cllr Peter Johnston, COSLA’s Health and Well-being Spokesperson, added: “I’ve just visited a District General Hospital in my own Health Board area and know from that just how hard nurses, clinicians, social workers and managers are working to facilitate the transfer of people waiting for discharge back to their own homes or into a care home. This is a priority of the first order – we know that for older people in particular, a delay of longer than 72 hours can have an impact on their health and well-being.
“We in COSLA are determined to make further progress on discharge arrangements. We are fully committed to the work of the task force, and believe that innovation in discharge protocols and in commissioning practice will deliver some of the progress needed. This will all take place within emerging health and social care partnerships and we hope to get to a position in time where service redesign can build community capacity to ensure that people are only admitted to hospital because they really need to be there and are then discharged speedily back to their own homes.”