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Level of delayed discharges from hospitals must be tackled, say Sinn Féin

28 January, 2005

Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Cllr John O'Dowd MLA, has expressed his concern over the reasons behind the increasing number of delayed discharges from hospitals of patients who have been declared medically fit for discharge in the North.

He said, "I had recently written to the NIO health minister, Angela Smith, asking for a breakdown on the numbers of delayed discharges of patients from hospitals and the reasons for those delays. In her reply to me, the minister has provided information which shows that half of those delays are caused by the fact that there is either no funding available to put in place appropriate care packages either at home or in a residential care setting, or that no appropriate place or care package is available. Indeed, the number of delayed discharges from acute hospitals has risen from a monthly average of 313 in 1999 to a level of 435 in 2004.

"This totally avoidable bed-blocking situation within acute hospitals is obviously something which neither the patients, their families or hospitals wish to be in, but it is a situation that is directly attributable to government under-funding of the community care programmes provided across all Health and Social Services Trusts. Indeed, the real knock-on effect of this under-funding is felt right across the health service in the unacceptably high number of patients who are regularly forced to lie on trolleys until such times as a bed becomes available, and is also visible in the form of the wider number of patients presently on hospital waiting lists for treatment.

"Clearly, there needs to be a commitment from government to increase dramatically the amount of funding needed to address this totally avoidable situation. I, along with other party colleagues, will be due to meet with minister shortly to discuss the proposed budget for the North's health service over the next three years. We certainly will be making a case for increased funding across all programmes of care within the health service in order to ensure that both patients and health service staff can have access to the quality health provision they deserve." ENDS

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