STV News gets it all wrong on delayed patient discharges

18th January 2017

As both Reporting Scotland and STV News, last night, headlined NHS scare stories, STV News stumbled over the trend in delayed patient discharge from Scottish hospitals. Here’s what they said:

‘And there has been little sign of improvement in the problem of delayed discharge from hospital.’

They mentioned that 1 509 people were delayed in November 2016 but they didn’t tell us, crucially, of any of these contextual factors:

  1. The 1 509 represented a reduction from 1 576 from October or 4.3%
  2. That represented a delay in days lost to bed-blocking from 48 104 to 45 639 or 5.1%
  3. This was on top of a 9% decrease on 2014/2015
  4. That some boards had been improving at a massively higher rate with, for example, Inverclyde down 54%!
  5. That NHS Scotland in 2015/2016 dealt with 1 622 547 cases so delayed discharges at the reported levels is a very small element in their performance
  6. That Scotland can cope much better than England with bed blocking as we have 4.67 beds per 1 000 population whereas NHS England has only 2.95 per 1000.

Remember also that with each decrease it becomes more difficult to make further decreases from a smaller and probably more complex, older (75% over 75) and difficult to place population so going from 9% delayed discharges to 4.3% is not necessarily failing in any way.

Here are the board-by-board figures which show quite dramatic improvements taking place in many of them:

Shetland Islands (56% reduction),

Inverclyde (54%),

West Dunbartonshire (38%),

East Renfrewshire (38%),

North Ayrshire (35%), Glasgow City (31%),

Angus (30%),

Midlothian (25%),

East Dunbartonshire (24%),

East Ayrshire (24%),

Dumfries and Galloway (21%),

East Lothian (20%),

Aberdeen (19%),

Falkirk (18%),

West Lothian (17%),

Aberdeenshire (17%),

Renfrewshire (16%)

Stirling (10%).


However the number of bed days occupied by delayed discharge patients has increased in:


Orkney (42% increase),

Perth and Kinross (26%),

Dundee City (23%), North Lanarkshire

(21%), Highland (11%),

Clackmannanshire (8%),

South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire and Fife (5%),

Argyll and Bute (3%).

The above do not suggest a national problem that can be blamed on the Scottish Government but rather the need for some boards to learn from others and to improve themselves.



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