Council Cuts Blamed As Bed Blocking Bill Hits £360 million

The failure to abolish delayed discharge (or bed blocking) has cost the Scottish NHS more than £360 million since 2015. Health Secretary Shona Robinson pledged to abolish it at the time, stating:

“I want over the course of this year to eradicate delayed discharge out of the system and I am absolutely determined to do that.”

But new analysis from Scottish Labour has revealed that the problem is persisting. What’s to blame? Well, the principal reason for delayed discharge - when a patient is medically fit to leave the hospital but cannot do so - is a lack of social care resources. Research by Unison Scotland in 2017 showed the magnitude of the strain the Scottish social care system is under, with a highly fragmented structure, and turnover rates four times higher than the NHS.

Crucially, cuts to council funding have resulted in massive cut backs to social care across Scotland. The situation is even more shocking when you consider that most of these cuts have been delivered in the form of worse pay and conditions for social care workers - people who are already poorly paid.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Anas Sarwar, said:

“Despite the SNP Health Secretary’s promises, her failure to get a grip of delayed discharge has cost our health service more than £360million.

“That is a staggering figure that could have been reinvested in our NHS to deliver better patient care and staff support.

“Much of the delay in discharging patients is due to social care issues and delays in care assessments – the result of years of an SNP government slashing local authority budgets, with £1.5billion cut since 2011.

“Labour’s alternative would end the cuts to our councils and deliver a National Guarantee for care workers.

“This would ensure all care workers are given appropriate training, paid the living wage, including the time and cost for travel.

“That’s the kind of radical change our health and care services need.”

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