Outrage at NHS Grampian delay in reporting bed-blocking deaths

An MSP has slammed NHS Grampian for the length of time they have taken to respond to demands for figures relating to the number of patients who are dying while waiting on a delayed discharge list.

Highlands & Islands (Including Moray) MSP Rhoda Grant, who is the Scottish Labour Shadow Health Inequalities minister, wrote to the Health Board on January 7 asking that they record and produce figures relating to delayed discharge deaths.

That came after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Scottish Labour Party revealed in January that across Scotland more than 400 patients a year died in hospitals whilst on a delayed discharge list, and revealed that NHS Grampian had failed to produce figures stating that the board do not record them.

Delayed discharges – or ‘Bed blocking’ – is caused by a shortage of care home places or home provision for patients and is an issue for patients who are predominantly elderly with significant underlying health issues.

According to the official statistics there were 452 deaths in 2012/13 with a further 407 deaths in hospital of patients on delayed discharge lists in 2013/14.

A delayed discharge is identified as a hospital inpatient judged clinically ready to leave hospital, who continues to occupy a bed beyond the ready for discharge date.

These patients are clinically ready to move on to a more appropriate care setting either within or out with the NHS such as the patient’s home or a care home.

The last figures recorded by the Scottish Government’s Information Services Division figures showed that 154,588 bed days were occupied by delayed discharge patients in the last quarter.

At the October 2014 census, 321 patients were delayed over four weeks; 587 patients were delayed over two weeks.

Mrs Grant said: “The figures released back in January revealed that almost every health board in Scotland has had a patient die whilst designated as a delayed discharge, and people living in Moray and the wider NHS Grampian region have a right to know how their health board matches up against others across Scotland.

“I wrote the NHS Grampian at the beginning of the year demanding that in future the health board record these figures and make them available to me.

“It is extremely important that these figures are recorded as we know that remaining in hospital when a patient is ready to leave can be dangerous.

“Grampian has one of the largest levels of delayed discharges and it is shocking that the Board do not even record these deaths.”

Last night NHS Grampian did release figures that reported 16 patients had died between February 23 and March 29, with an NHS Grampian spokeswoman saying that an investigation was under way to establish the cause or causes of death.

She added that the health board was now recording delayed discharge related deaths on a weekly basis: “We are establishing a process to review the circumstances of those individual patients to look carefully into the cause or causes of their death.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said that the overall number of patients delayed for longer than four weeks had reduced by two-thirds while £100million had been given to health boards across Scotland to tackle the issue.

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