Quarter of Forth Valley hospital beds filled by patients waiting on discharge

Almost one-quarter of acute beds in NHS Forth Valley were being used by patients waiting to be discharged or transferred, the latest figures have revealed.

Forth Valley Royal Hospital (Pic: Michael Gillen)
Forth Valley Royal Hospital (Pic: Michael Gillen)

Chief executive Cathie Cowan highlighted the issue to members of NHS Forth Valley board when it met on Monday, saying it is having a major impact on the service’s ability to admit new patients.

She said: “We have 91 patients waiting for a care setting, and this has huge implications for patient flow.

“We have only got 400 acute beds and if 100 are out action, it’s really difficult.”

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April’s figures showed that 33 people had waited for more than a fortnight to be moved to a care setting.

She said: “We have to look collectively at how we’re going to support patients.

“We want to see people really settled at a time in their lives when they should be settled. Hospitals are really busy places, including community hospitals, and they are not always suitable.”

The number of bed days occupied by delayed discharge at the April census was 1232 and May to April 2018/19 saw a 49 per cent increase on the previous year.

Forth Valley NHS Chairman Alex Linkston made the point that delayed discharges is a key issue for the two Integration Joint Boards responsible for health and social care – one in Falkirk and one covering Stirling and Clackmannanshire.

He said there was a need to develop action plans and identify solutions so that progress could be monitored against agreed targets.

The urgency of the problem is compounded by the fact that a new elective care centre is due to become operational  in Forth Valley Royal Hospital  this November and the worry is that a lack of inpatient beds will result in delays for people waiting for surgery.

Ms Cowan was reporting to the board that the delayed discharge target was the only one of Forth Valley NHS’s eight key standards that had not seen improvement.

There was significant improvement in the target to ensure anyone referred with a suspicion of cancer should be treated within 62 days or fewer, which rose from 77.9 per cent in April 2018 to 88.2 per cent in April this year.

This falls short of the national target of 95 per cent but is above the average compliance for Scotland which was 79.9 per cent.

Progress has also been made to address the long-running problem of lengthy waiting for access to psychological therapies.

In April 2019, 61.7 per cent of patients were treated within 18 weeks of referral, an increase of 10 per cent on the year before.

This is still far short of the government’s target of 90 per cent.

Access to child and adolescent mental health services was greatly improved, rising from 52.3 per cent to 83.6 per cent, against a national target of 90 per cent.