Council leader warns long-term funding needed to solve NHS Fife bed blocking

Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy
Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy

Progress to reduce the number of hospital beds blocked by ‘healthy’ patients will be unsustainable without extra long-term funding.

That was the blunt warning issued by Fife Council’s leader Davis Ross after NHS Fife revealed delayed discharges were down from 139 in November to 89 in January. That drop was welcomed but fell short of targets that no patients be delayed for more than two weeks.

...challenge of this scale requires fresh thinking from leaders

Councillor Andrew Rodger

“Colleagues across all sectors in Fife are taking every action possible,” said David Ross.

“We are facing a massive increase in the number of people requiring care over the next 20 years and if we are to continue safeguarding the welfare of older and disabled people, then further investment will be required.”

A recent cash injection from the Scottish Government and Fife Council as well as partnership working between health and social care agencies helped reduce numbers over the winter.

But the vast majority of delayed patients (97 per cent) were waiting for community care assesments and community care arrangements.

Councillor Andrew Rodger, co-chairman of the Health and Social Care Integration Board said: “The focus and dedication from colleagues and service partners has been incredible and I thank each and every one of them.

“Frontline staff do all they can on a day to day level but a challenge of this scale requires fresh thinking from leaders.”

Professor Scott McLean, Director of Acute Services, NHS Fife, vowed to continue to invest in community-based and intermediate services, “allowing many patients to have easier and quicker access to the support most appropriate to their individual needs.”

And that’s not the only issue...

In January, approximately 2600 patients were waiting more than 12 weeks through Fife NHS for an appointment, compared to 550 in January last year.

The number of inpatients/day care waiting more than nine weeks had also risen to 350 in January, compared with 150 the year before.

Vacancies for consultants, especially in emergency, neurology and radiology, landed Fife NHS with a bill of £2.8 million for locums over the past year.

This led to a £5.7 million overspend for planned care, in addition to a £5 million overspend in emergency care.