Conservative Assembly Member Darren Miller commented that: “No patient should have to wait almost four years to be discharged from hospital.” Yet that’s exactly what happened to one patient who had only been declared fit for discharge after 1,338 days had passed. The patient, whose name has not been disclosed, was noted for having a “serious mental condition” in addition to their physical health problems and learning disability, reports the BBC.com. Their “complex” health needs were the primary reasons behind their three-and-a-half year long stay in a hospital bed.
This shocking account came to light after Vaughan Gething, Welsh Health Secretary, sent a letter to Millar. The letter contained a list of the longest delays experienced by patients who were admitted to hospitals associated with Wales’ seven Local Health Boards, or administrative units within the National Health Service (NHS). Gething penned the letter in response to Millar’s call for “details on the longest number of bed days lost by individual patients experiencing delayed transfers of care”, according to the Independent.co.uk.
The patient who had been in their hospital bed for almost four years had been staying at a hospital that is part of the Hywel Dda University Health Board in west Wales. Gething wrote that the health board’s clinical team would be able to properly discharge the patient “in about six months.” Gething elaborated by writing: “We have recently been advised that using a bespoke commissioning approach, the health board has secured a provider who is able to meet all of the patient’s complex needs, subject to some structural alterations to their premises.”
Millar has called the delay “truly scandalous” and then remarked: “While bed blocking is extremely costly for the NHS in Wales, the real cost is the quality of life of patients for whom it affects.” (Related: NHS doctors, nurses say government-run healthcare a dismal failure that puts lives at risk)
Other cases detailed in the letter included patients who had been waiting for over a year to be discharged, as of January of this year. Specifically, a patient at the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (589 days), and patients at the Cardiff and Vale University Health Boards (583 days). Less extreme but nonetheless disconcerting are the patients at the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (330 days), Powys Teaching Health Board (218 days), Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (162 days), and Cwm Taf University Health Board (135 days).
When inquired about the case, Director of Operations at Hywel Da University Health Board Joe Teape told the Independent.co.uk: “We are unable to discuss individual patient cases, however we continue to work hard to reduce delayed transfers of care and have good relationships with our local authority and third-sector partners in providing care in the community as and when appropriate.”
With regards to Gething’s letter, a spokesman for the Welsh Government stated that the figures had to be viewed within a much wider context. “Delayed transfers of care are at their lowest level for 12 years,” the spokesman said. “This is an exceptional achievement, especially when considered against the backdrop of increasing demand on services as our population ages. The patients referred to in this correspondence had complex needs associated with mental health conditions and required highly specialist — often bespoke — services to be put in place. None were occupying acute hospital beds.”
Others were less convinced. The figures were called a “a further indictment of the Welsh Labour Government’s failure to process patients through hospitals and into community care within an acceptable timescale,” by spokesperson for Health on the National Assembly for Wales’ Shadow Cabinet Angela Burns.
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