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Almost 500 Scottish people died in hospital while waiting to be discharged

Published on 12 September 2019 12:14 PM

Almost 500 people died in Scottish hospitals while waiting to be discharged last year, around 20 per cent more than the previous year, new figures have revealed.

Age Scotland called the deaths “tragic” and said urgent action is needed to tackle the growing problem of delayed discharges and an over-stretched social care system.

A Freedom of Information request by the charity revealed that 474 patients, mainly older people, died in hospital after their discharge was delayed. The vast majority (423) were waiting for health and social care packages to be put in place.

This is a steep rise on the previous year’s total of 400, with 353 delayed for health and social care reasons. The figures have consistently increased in recent years, with 373 deaths in 2016 and 282 in 2015.

There was wide variation throughout Scotland, with NHS Lothian reporting 86 delayed discharge deaths, the highest number in Scotland, between April 2018 and March 2019.

This was followed by Grampian (at least 83 deaths), Greater Glasgow and Clyde (69), and Ayrshire and Arran (59).

Only 13 died in the Borders, while Tayside reported fewer than 15 deaths.

Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland, said: “It’s tragic that hundreds of Scottish people died while stuck in hospital last year, instead of in their home or community. These are people who were well enough to be discharged, but most were delayed because the social care they needed was not available.

“While these deaths were not caused by delays, we know that spending unnecessary time in hospital increases the risk of mobility loss and infection, as well as loneliness and isolation.

“Many of these people had been in hospital for weeks, spending the end of their lives feeling isolated on hospital wards instead of in the comfort of familiar surroundings. The overwhelming majority of people say they would prefer to die at home if possible, or at least in the comfortable setting of a care home.

“Despite the Scottish Government’s repeated promises to tackle delayed discharges, these figures show that the problem is spiraling out of control. We urgently need more investment in our social care system, so that every older person can access the care they are entitled to.”

Age Scotland’s Waiting for Care report found this year that 43 per cent of older people with “critical” or “substantial” needs wait longer than the six weeks outlined in national guidelines for the social care they need.

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Notes to editors

Age Scotland’s Waiting for Care report found this year that 43 per cent of older people with “critical” or “substantial” needs wait longer than the six weeks outlined in national guidelines for the social care they need.

For more Information

Contact the Age Scotland Media team

Telephone: 0131 668 0364 / 07801 500 663 / communications@agescotland.org.uk

Age Scotland provides a seven day a week response service to media enquiries through a dedicated telephone line and email.

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