Figures released by Public Health Scotland on Tuesday show delayed discharge continues to be a concern across south Scotland.

The numbers have increased by 45 per cent in Dumfries and Galloway between January 2022 and January 2023.

Comparing the figures between 2022 and 2023, NHS Borders showed a 35 per cent increase and NHS Ayrshire and Arran reported a 65 per cent increase.

Delayed discharge is when a patient is medically cleared to go home but cannot leave hospital, often because a social care package is not in place or there is a lack of places in care homes or sheltered housing.

Across the region thousands of hours of assessed care is not being provided in homes because of a lack of carers.

An increasing number of care home closures are also reducing the opportunities for older people to leave hospital if they require a care home place.

Colin Smyth said: “These figures continue to show the scale of how many people are affected by delayed discharge across the area. The large rises for Ayrshire and Arran and in Dumfries and Galloway, compared to last year, are a real concern.

“I have been calling for improvements for years now, well before the Covid pandemic, but enough is enough. In 2015, the SNP vowed to eradicate delayed discharge but we are so far away from achieving that.

“It is time for delayed discharge figures to start improving and I am demanding that the Scottish Government take serious action.

“The Government’s ‘solution’ is apparently to pay health boards to discharge patients, not back home where they want to be, but into care homes where they do not want to be—and, in rural areas, those care homes are often miles from their family.

“That will not work: while many boards are already buying up beds in care homes, there are not enough because those homes also cannot recruit care staff.

“We need long term investment, including tackling the woeful low level of sheltered housing locally, but the Government could start by backing Labour’s plans to pay care workers a fair wage of £12 an hour, rising to £15 which would help with the recruitment crisis.”

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