Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Thursday, 26 November 2009

Health board says worst cases of bed-blocking behind it

Older woman's hands
Highland Council said 1m a year was being spent on home care for elderly

A health board has moved on from a time when older patients were staying in hospital for years rather than being cared for at home, according to a boss.

NHS Highland chairman Gary Coutts said six to seven years ago patients were "living in hospital for several years".

However, the board and Highland Council are having to tackle one of the worst bed-blocking problems in Scotland.

According to government statistics, some patients have had to wait more than six weeks to leave hospital.

Highland Council's social work chairwoman Margaret Davidson said the local authority has been spending £1m every year for the last three years to provide home care, but said there was "room for improvement".

Scottish government statistics showed NHS Highland and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have experienced the largest increases in bed-blocking, or delayed discharge.

'Room for improvement'

Mr Coutts said: "I want to make it absolutely clear that from NHS Highland's point of view that there is nothing good about delayed discharge.

"We want to get people out of hospital as soon as they are fit for discharge."

He added: "Although the figures that were released are not good, compared to where we were six-seven years ago when there were some people I visited that had been living in hospital for several years as delayed discharge, we are nowhere at that stage."

Mrs Davidson said it was hoped improvements to the waiting time would be seen over the next three to four months.

She said: "There is room for improvement and we are the first to say that.

"None of us want to see folk staying in hospital any longer than they need to. We want to get people back home if we can so they can regain their independence."

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