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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
08 November 2022
3,200 patients die awaiting discharge since SNP pledge almost eight years ago

A busy hospital

3,200 patients die awaiting discharge since SNP pledge almost eight years ago

More than 3,200 patients in Scotland have died waiting to be discharged from hospital since the Scottish Government promised to end delayed discharges almost eight years ago, according to the Scottish Conservatives.   

Shona Robison, then-health secretary, said in February 2015 that she would end delayed discharges by the end of the year. Information obtained by the Scottish Conservatives through the Freedom of Information Act shows that the deaths in 2022 are more than double that of 2015.  

So far this year, 432 patients declared fit for discharge later died in hospital. The figures suggest that the situation was in a grave state pre pandemic – in 2019, 566 patients died while awaiting discharge, more than three-and-a-half times more than 2015.  

According to statistics published last week, the delayed discharge has reached its all-time worst level since records began. The figures show that an average of around 1,830 beds were occupied each day in September by patients who were declared fit to leave hospital.  

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Sandesh Gulhane MSP said: "The SNP’s promise to eradicate delayed discharge has proven to be completely worthless.

“The SNP knew the scale of the problem back in 2015. Yet instead of taking concrete action to tackle it, they sat on their hands and allowed more than 3,000 patients to die awaiting discharge in the last eight years. These are patients who were medically fit to go back to their homes and loved ones, but who ended up dying still stuck in hospital because vital social-care support was not available to them.

“This is deeply distressing for patients and heart-breaking for their families – but the knock-on effects of ‘bed blocking’ are felt right across our NHS, as patients in desperate need of hospital beds can’t get them. Scotland’s social care sector needs urgent help, yet instead of putting funding and support back into frontline care, the SNP are rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic with their wasteful National Care Service plans.

“Humza Yousaf should take these shocking figures as a wake-up call, U-turn on the National Care Service, and take concrete action to finally make good on this eight-year-old promise.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is critical that people are cared for in the right setting and that vital hospital beds are there for those who need them. That is why we continue to work with Health Boards Health and Social Care Partnerships to reduce to reduce delays in people leaving hospital.

“Wherever possible, we also want people nearing the end of life to receive appropriate care and support in a setting of their choosing, including a hospital should they wish.”

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