New targets to free up hospital beds will test services to the limit.
Health and local authority officials agree that the Scottish Government’s new objective of moving patients out of hospital and into care homes within four weeks is “challenging”.
Last year, the target was to have no delayed discharges of more than six weeks.
Latest figures show that NHS Forth Valley achieved this during February.
However, the health authority, like others across the country, will have to meet the new limit from April next year.
This will be further reduced to a 14-day maximum wait from April 2015.
In a report to the health board, chief executive Fiona Mackenzie said: “To meet and sustain the delayed discharge zero position in partnership against the current financial pressure continues to pose challenges.
“A focus on further reducing this target from over six to over four weeks over the next year places additional pressure on the delayed discharge work. A range of actions are in place to reduce delays including working with local authority partners.”
NHS Forth Valley’s healthcare strategy is for acute patients – those most seriously ill or emergency cases – to be treated in the 860 beds at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert which officially opened last summer.
Patients who are recovering or undergoing rehabilitation would then be moved to the community hospitals in Falkirk, Stirling, Bo’ness and Clackmannan. From there, those needing ongoing assistance, particularly the elderly, should be discharged into care facilities.
However, it is the time taken to locate an appropriate care home place, suiting the individual and their needs, which can lead to delays.
Falkirk Council works closely with the health board to identify both public and private sector facilities which can be used.
A health board report noted this continuing “work with families to support an appropriate move into care with interim placements where necessary.
Weekly meetings and ‘man-marking’ of patients is used to support this activity. Due to a number of reasons, there are limited vacancies across the care home sector adding to pressure within the system”.
A spokeswoman for the health board said: “NHS Forth Valley is committed to reducing the number of delayed discharges. At the end of February 2012, there were no delays over six weeks.
“We continue to work closely with local authority partners to move people into the most appropriate care setting, with interim arrangements being put in place where necessary.“
A spokesman for Falkirk Council said: “We work closely with NHS Forth Valley to achieve the sometimes challenging targets set nationally.
“Those going into care have several options including council facilities, independent providers or home care packages.
“We aim to continually meet the targets set and provide the best for our clients.”