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NHS Highland reveals 274 patients stuck in hospital as care crisis deepens

By Nicola Sinclair, Local Democracy Reporter

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There are 274 patients in hospital suffering from ‘delayed discharge’, according to latest statistics.
There are 274 patients in hospital suffering from ‘delayed discharge’, according to latest statistics.

Care home closures and chronic staff shortages are leaving hundreds of Highland patients without appropriate care.

NHS Highland has published its latest figures in an assurance report ahead of a committee meeting with Highland Council on Wednesday.

It sets out the true extent of the care crisis, and the impact on families across the Highlands.

As of January 31, 2023, there are 274 patients in hospital suffering from ‘delayed discharge’.

This means they are medically fit to leave hospital, but NHS Highland cannot discharge them as they don’t have services to support them.

The figures are particularly stark when measured in “unmet need”. Across the region, NHS Highland says there are 2701 hours of unmet need for care. Inverness accounts for 1014 hours, with Skye, Easter Ross and Lochaber also having high levels of unmet demand.

Most of the hundreds of patients stuck in hospital need care at home or a placement in a nursing home.

However, NHS Highland says it has suffered a “significant and sustained reduction in the number of people receiving external care at home”.

The health board says this is mostly due to home carers leaving employment. And while the decline has flattened a bit in recent months, NHS Highland say this is likely temporary.

“We have not yet seen a growth in external care at home and low levels of recruitment continues to be the key concern expressed by providers in our frequent discussions,” says the NHS report.

NHS Highland bosses say they’re doubling down on recruitment efforts to attract and retain staff.

Meanwhile, the Highland care home sector is experiencing “significant stress and pressure”. Many independent care homes are leaving the sector altogether, especially in rural parts of Highland.

Generally, the region averages one care home closure each year. But the latest NHS Highland report outlines three closures in 2022/23: Shoremill in Cromarty, Budhmor House in Portree and Grandview in Grantown.

The report does not reference the imminent closure of Castle Gardens care home in Invergordon. Operator HC-One announced last week that it intends to close the home, leaving 25 residents in limbo.

And Mo Dhachaidh care home in Ullapool is due to close next month, taking the total to five in 14 months.

The latest figures will be discussed at a meeting of the NHS Highland and Highland Council joint monitoring committee.

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