Patients may end up being transferred to mainland hospitals if capacity reaches breaking point at Western Isles Hospital.
The Stornoway hospital remains under severe pressure due to patients being unable to leave until a care package is available.
The issue of delayed discharges at the hospital reached an all-time high in January with 46 patients affected.
To date there have not been any transfers to the mainland due to a bed not being available but this is an ongoing concern for staff.
A report to a recent meeting the Joint Health and Social Care Committee stated that the inability to discharge patients had ‘seriously disrupted the overall functioning of the hospital with contingency arrangements continually challenged’.
The report added: “The increasing number of patients unable to leave hospital due to the inability to provide care home places and/or care home setting is now at a level where normal health care admissions to the Western Isles Hospital have been disrupted. It remains a risk that patients booked for elective surgery may have to be cancelled.”
A spokesperson for NHS Western Isles said this week that there were somewhere between 20 and 30 delayed discharges at any one time and that meant an ongoing risk that those in need of acute hospital admission and care encounter a delay. They said the cost of the problem in terms of resources was inhibiting the development of much-needed other health and care services here in the Western Isles such as rheumatology, psychology, advanced out-of-hours nursing, and enhanced community mental health teams.
They said: “Our collective aim is to ensure that, following timely multi-disciplinary assessment and agreement on future care needs on discharge from hospital, individuals are cared for in the environment that best meets their needs.
“An ongoing challenge prevails in the Western Isles in terms of the unavailability of care home places and the inability to secure assessed home care packages.
“The consequences of this are that people are occupying a hospital bed beyond the point that they have been assessed as medically fit for discharge. Remaining in hospital, individuals are less likely to regain their best level of mobility and independence and in fact become more immobile and unnecessarily dependent on support.”
There was good news for those requiring care locally this week with the announcement that the Comhairle had given the go ahead for the new £5.9m Ardseileach Care Development which will meet the care and support needs of adults with learning disabilities and complex care needs.
The project will replace the accommodation of the existing care home and respite service to provide a modern up-to-date facility. In addition, the building of supported accommodation units will provide different styles of individual and shared living options, with varying levels of support provided depending on individual needs.
In recent years the inflexibility of the design and layout of Ardseileach Care Home has at times required the Comhairle to accommodate and care for clients on the mainland and this new facility will help to reduce those numbers.