I thought that the degree to which politicians and their supporting media pals misrepresent reality protecting the state had reached a low point in the summer of 2014 when Gordy Broon and the Scottish media put it about that should Scotland become an independent country gravely ill Scottish children would not receive care at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, and Scots would not have access to the national blood bank service. However a certain Scottish Labour branch office health spokesman, he of the gigantic cardboard pound coin stunt, guffaw guffaw, and the Depress seem determined to crawl lower than a caterpillar’s anal abdominal prolegs with their latest SNPBad rant on NHS bed-blocking.

Using the dead as political pawns is simply outrageous. I read the online story three times on the Depress site just to make sure it wasn’t me. But yes, it’s true, they are trying hard to make some sort of link between an SNP policy and the deaths of 683 people whilst in Scottish NHS hospitals. Just to make sure I wasn’t seeing something that wasn’t there I asked two acquaintances, with a far deeper knowledge than myself in matters of a public health service nature, to read the article. Neither of whom have any strong political beliefs, neither of whom were given any context by me prior to reading the story. Both concurred that the tenuous link the Labour branch office health spokesman and the newspaper are making is farcical.

‘Almost 700 patients have died whilst trapped in hospital because of the SNP’s failure to tackle the bed-blocking scandal” says the Depress. They then go on to explain that “ bed-blocking, known as delayed discharge, occurs when a person who is deemed medically ready to be released remains in hospital.” Informatively they tell readers that one of the most common reasons for delayed discharge involves elderly patients awaiting appropriate care packages.

So there you have it. On the face of it the casual reader of this news piece could reasonably deduce that almost 700 patients, some fit and ready to leave hospital, others well enough to be go home, or on to residential care, with the appropriate care packages in place, passed away because they were “trapped’ in NHS Hospitals. The casual reader could then also reasonably have been expected to assume, from the content of this piece, that the patients concerned may very well have been fine otherwise, and still with us.

Having acquired the information that generated the media article through an FOI request the Labour branch office health spokesman suggests that these figures are “horrifying” and show that delayed discharge “ can be seriously dangerous for the patients involved” reinforcing a position that the deaths of these patients may have been avoidable if only the SNP had sorted out their bed-blocking issues.

The story on the Depress site is accompanied by a photo of an elderly man appearing to be in distress, hands covering his face. My goodness, are they suggesting that the Health Service in Scotland is so poor that patients being admitted into hospitals fear that there’s a pretty fair chance that they won’t be coming out of there again alive?

The truth is that patients in NHS hospitals in Scotland are not dying as a result of discharge delays, and to say otherwise logically suggests that the level of care provided by thousands of committed health professionals working in the health service is so bad that it’s dangerous, a nonsense, and an insult to them.

A spokesman for Fife’s Health and Social care Partnership said of the deceased patients attributed to the Fife area “ many of them had life-limiting illnesses, and their condition deteriorated while their discharge was delayed, which meant they could not return home.” It is a fact that patients with serious health issues, particularly in the case of the elderly, will die, whether it be in their own home, in care or in hospital. Circumstances can change very quickly, conditions can worsen, care plans have to be adapted. This has no connection to bed-blocking, and reflects poorly on the aforementioned branch office health spokesman’s knowledge of the portfolio he has responsibility for if he thinks it does.

In actual fact between 2014 and 2016 hospital mortality in Scotland fell by 4.5%,which was 3,000 fewer deaths than expected.

The real story, if the unionist branch mouthpiece wanted to pursue it, without the sensationalism, should have been about the SNP not meeting promises on reducing bed-blocking by not having enough funding in place to ensure that discharge delays are minimal (a situation the Scottish government are addressing) and perhaps using that failure to shine an unfavourable light, from a political perspective, on how the SNP plan to address the increasing challenge on the health service of an ageing population. But that wasn’t Hollywood enough for him it seems.

Using the dead as political fodder is low, very low.

Scotland could do so much better.


2 thoughts on “Reprehensible

  1. Ally, I also asked some health professionals about this story and depressingly it’s all about housekeeping. Not deaths or care; not medical or treatment malfunctions; but quite simply – housekeeping.
    As soon as I heard the story my first thoughts were, ‘If 683 people died whilst within the care of our best health clinicians, doctors, nurses, facilities; what hope did they have had we ‘shoved them out’ into “appropriate care packages”?
    So simply housekeeping, and that old chestnut – mortality.
    To remind everyone, “Nobody gets out of this alive. We ALL die – eventually”.
    This story, had it been addressed with even a modicum of rationality, could very easily have caused a degree of embarrassment to the Scottish Government for not ensuring the effective roll out of sufficient care packages across our communities. Whether through funding issues, facility deficiencies, care professional shortages, or any other number of reasons; SNPbaaad could have had some questions to answer.
    Instead? It’s a shot in the foot for an incompetent bunch of self-servers.
    Of the 683 citizens who died whilst awaiting discharge from hospital, I can safely say that 683 of them would have perished anyway. Many were simply elderly with underlying health conditions whose time had come; the grim reaper waits for no man.
    The only real choice they realistically had was where they would spend the last few months of life, with friends and family close by.
    The use of the pejorative term ‘bed-blocking’ assists no one. Delayed discharge IS a serious problem, one which we should be tackling with a greater degree of urgency than currently happening. Primary care in hospital costs in the region of £5,000pw; community hospitals £3-4,000pw; Care home £1-2,000pw; Sheltered accommodation £500+pw. It makes sense to release these critical beds with all of their ancillary support and I’m sure it’s something the baad SNP are actively pursuing. Providing a level of appropriate care packages is a major challenge and something I feel an independent Scotland would rise to.
    So, that casual reader WOULD reasonably deduce that approaching 700 patients passed away because they were “trapped’ in hospital. What the casual reader MAY have assumed, and was encouraged to assume from the content of the story, was that the patients would have been fine otherwise. And that’s disgraceful.
    I’d only ask for some honesty from those Labour politicians who suggested that those figures are “horrifying” and “can be seriously dangerous for the patients involved”.
    By suggesting that the Health Service in Scotland is so poor that patients’ welfare is threatened, takes the argument a step to far. Honesty Labour; it’s all we ask.
    Using the dead as political fodder is as far from honest as I can think.

    Good piece Ally.


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