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NHS figures: Patients are waiting up to five years to be discharged from hospital

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Patients are waiting up to five years to be discharged from hospital even though they are medically ready to leave, new figures reveal.

Figures obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats reveal more than 2,443 patients had to wait more than three weeks to be discharged from hospital in 2020-21.

In one case, a patient in Tayside had to wait 1,835 days, more than five years, to be discharged. Another patient waited in Forth Valley 1,177 days and in Dumfries & Galloway the longest wait was 617 days.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Delayed discharges have a huge impact on patients and their families. Once you are declared fit to leave, there is nothing more disheartening than being forced to wait in a hospital as the days tick by.

“Delayed discharges involve eye-watering sums of money for the NHS.”

The Scottish Government said: “7% of all occupied beds last year were taken up by delayed discharges at a cost in 2019-20 of £142m.

“More important is the human cost when we know that remaining in hospital after treatment can cause a loss of independence as well as risk of infection and worsening mental and physical health.

“We have announced additional funding to address this, including £62m to enhance care at home, £48m to increase the hourly rate of pay, £40m to support interim care arrangements and £20m to enhance multi-disciplinary teams.

“We have also recently launched our ‘discharge without delay’ programme, backed by £5m, to help local health and social care partnerships improve discharge planning arrangements.”

Meanwhile, almost 60,000 people have been on a waiting list for treatment for more than a year.

One in nine Scots are stuck on an NHS waiting list – and 59,725 have been waiting more than a year.

This is despite the Scottish Government’s Treatment Time Guarantee that patients will be seen within 12 weeks.

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “The SNP failed to deliver a successful catch-up programme while Covid rates were lower, meaning that services were already stretched to breaking point before the new variant hit.

“Now we are in the midst of a full-scale crisis, and patients are set to be left languishing on waiting lists for longer still.”

The Scottish Government said: “More than two million inpatients and day cases have benefited from the 12-week treatment target since it was introduced. However, the pandemic has led to a build-up of numbers waiting for treatment.

“This is why we developed the NHS Recovery Plan, setting out plans for the next five years, backed by more than £1 billion of funding.”