Scandal of Fife’s bed blocking

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HEALTH bosses hit out at Fife Council yesterday, saying it was at the root of the bed blocking crisis which is causing difficulties throughout hospitals in the Kingdom.

Dave Stewart, chairman of the operations division of NHS Fife, laid the blame firmly at the door of the local authority.

And launching a further attack on the Council, he called for a Government inquiry into its handling of the growing crisis.

Mr Stewart criticised Fife Council for withdrawing a quantity of funding when it found that NHS Fife could not match it.

The Council decided at a meeting in December to free up to £250,000 from its balances to combat the problem of people being unable to be discharged from hospital because of a lack of funds for appropriate care home packages or care in the community.

But it only only put up £112,000, because of NHS Fife’s inability to match the funding.

Mr Stewart said: “I am appalled at the behaviour of Fife Council for making such a conditional offer to NHS Fife.

Responsibility

‘‘I want to make it absolutely clear that the responsibility for providing home care and care home packages is Fife Council’s.

“The way it tried to portray this as our problem and it was the one helping us out, was extremely low life politics and not what I expect from Fife councillors.

“I’m hopeful that, after they hear the kind of stresses and strains imposed on NHS Fife, they will have the good grace to put forward the £138,000 that disappeared from the table.”

The most recent figures, released in October 2010 show 103 delayed discharges in the Fife hospital system, with 26 people waiting over six weeks for discharge.

Figures rise

The figures are up from July when there were 100 delayed discharges with 11 waiting over six weeks.

The operational division committee heard yesterday that delayed discharges -- also known as ‘bed blocking’ -- created huge problems in hospitals as backlogs were created.

Dr Gordon Birnie, medical director, described how the quality of care is damaged by bed blocking, and the practice of ‘boarding out’ patients who cannot be discharged to other wards increased the risk of hospital based infections.

Patients were also called into hospital for their scheduled operation, only to be told that there were no beds available. In some cases, they faced late cancellations three or four times.

Mr Stewart called for a government investigation to be made into the Council’s handling of the problem.