Discharge delayed for half of critical care patients

Tuesday 13th August 2019

Bed shortages are forcing Scottish hospitals to keep patients in critical care units after they are well enough to be discharged to other wards. 

An annual audit of critical care in Scotland published today reveals nearly half of patients had their discharge from hospital critical care units delayed by more than four hours.

In some cases, this saw patients’ admission to critical care units delayed, though one health board said this was “extremely rare”.

NHS Scotland’s information department states hospitals are struggling to discharge patients home from elsewhere in the hospital because of a lack of social care support.

ISD Scotland says these blockages can ‘back up’ into critical care areas during busy times.

Overall, nearly 7,000 bed-days were taken up because of discharges being delayed, equating to an additional 1,000 patient stays.

The Scottish Government says it is investing in social care so there is more support available outside of hospital.

A spokesman said: “This report which shows that there has been a continued small but steady improvement in the number of patients, who when clinically ready, are discharged from intensive care units to other areas of acute care. We know that this includes older people with multiple, highly complex needs that will still require some level of specialist care within the hospital setting.

“…No one should have to spend unnecessary time in hospital once treatment is complete. That is why we are allocating more than £700m to support social care and integration in 2019/20, helping to reduce delays in the system.”

The Scottish Conservatives said delayed discharges in critical care units have doubled over the last year. Miles Briggs, the party’s health spokesman, called on the Scottish Government to ensure the health service has enough staff and beds.

Meanwhile, Alex Cole-Hamilton of the Scottish Liberal Democrats called for the “long overdue” workforce plan to be published and for MSPs to debate health service workforce planning at Holyrood.