Let’s think out the box

GLENROTHES;'Rona Laing, Head of Services, in social work office for story of council bed blocking.'Photo ; WALTER NEILSON
GLENROTHES;'Rona Laing, Head of Services, in social work office for story of council bed blocking.'Photo ; WALTER NEILSON
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FIFE’S bed blocking crisis is improving, but “radical change” is needed to keep numbers down in the face of increasing demand for care.

Statistics released this week revealed a dramatic drop in the number of patients stuck in Fife’s hospitals, after urgent action was taken in January following Fife being named the worst in Scotland for delayed discharges.

However, despite the vast improvement, NHS bosses have said a different solution is needed as Fife’s elderly population continues to grow.

George Cunningham, NHS Fife lead for delayed discharges, told the Press: “With Fife’s 75 plus population due to increase by over 20 per cent by 2014, and increase by over 64 per cent by 2024, continuing to do what has always been done is neither sensible nor affordable.

‘‘We need to look at different strategies for the longer term.

“People today are telling us their greatest wish is to live as independently as possible.

‘‘To ensure good quality of life, intensive support will need to be provided up front in order to minimise the need for people having to go into a hospital or a residential setting.

’’This will require a radical change in approach.”

Blocking crisis

The crisis reached its peak at the start of the year, with almost 160 patients stuck in Fife hospitals. After emergency talks NHS Fife and Fife Council both put forward £250,000 to help alleviate the problem. The figure now stands at 57.

Bed blocking is caused by the lack of suitable care packages for patients who can leave hospital but have nowhere to go for further long-term care.

Rona Laing, head of older people services, said the complexities of providing care packages for those leaving hospital means there can be delays.

She said: “Some of these people are younger adults with extremely complex physical and or mental disabilities.

Complex care

‘‘The care packages they require are substantial and we have a duty to ensure they receive the support they and their families deserve. ‘‘

After a deal was struck between the health board and local authority in January, Dave Stewart, chairman of the operational division of NHS Fife, said he hoped the situation would “never arise again”.

This week’s statistics revealed the majority of patients were delayed for around two weeks, however, 30 per cent were delayed for between five and six weeks from March to May.

Of the 57, 28 were waiting for a community care assessment, while 23 were waiting for space in a care home to become available.