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Tackling delayed discharge is a big priority for the Executive. Clearly, no one should have to remain in a hospital bed for longer than they need to if more appropriate care is available in the community. That is why we launched our delayed discharge action plan in March 2002, which set out a range of measures to tackle the issue. The plan is now backed with additional resources to the tune of £30 million per annum to help local authorities and their national health service partners to reduce the number of patients who are inappropriately delayed in our hospitals.
Ministers and officials have on-going discussions with NHS boards and local authorities on a range of subjects, including delayed discharge. Since the launch of our action plan, the number of patients delayed in Scotland has reduced by 1,184 and the number of patients delayed for more than six weeks has almost halved. In Forth Valley, the total number delayed has reduced over the same period from 166 to 118, and the number delayed for more than six weeks has reduced from 135 to 80.
Is the minister aware that the most recent figures for Forth Valley show that six out of the seven targets were not achieved and that about two thirds of the delayed discharges are in the Falkirk area? If the minister is telling us that the Scottish Executive is providing sufficient funds to deal with the problem, will he tell NHS Forth Valley and Falkirk Council to take more urgent action to reduce the number of delayed discharges, which cause a situation whereby many people, especially elderly people, are not getting the care that they deserve, while other patients have to wait far too long for a hospital bed?
I sympathise with the direction of travel that Dennis Canavan raises, and I am more than happy to engage with the authorities involved. He is absolutely correct to say that we have people in inappropriate care settings, and we must seek to resolve that. Forth Valley has taken a number of steps to support effective discharge. Those measures include the provision of 24/7 cover; the purchase of additional care home places; increased packages of enhanced home care to allow people to remain at home; additional occupational therapy; A and E treatment options; hospital discharge facilities; co-ordination of the work of our public services; and enhanced rehabilitation services. That package of measures is about not just money, but the way in which different public sector organisations work. I want them to work better, more closely together and in a more timely fashion. I am not satisfied with the numbers and I am more than happy to engage with the relevant authorities to ensure that we
Is the minister aware that, according to figures supplied by Scottish Care, funding per person per week for residential care is £35 short and that for nursing care is £61 short of the costs of provision? That is largely why there are insufficient care homes to satisfy demand, which results in blocked hospital beds. Is the minister further aware that the problem could be resolved quickly if he agreed to pay care homes for the real costs of care?
With all due respect, we have put a huge amount of public money into Scottish care homes to ensure that places are available. If I recollect correctly, we have provided over £140 million in the past three years to deal with the issue of providing care home places in our communities. The negotiations on such matters are tough. It is right for the Executive to ensure that we get value for money from care-home providers. As a local MSP, I have probably opened five care homes in the past year, so I suggest that the market is not as dead and buried as Nanette Milne suggests.
I look forward to discussing matters with care-home providers on Friday in Glasgow at their conference. I am sure that the Executive is putting its money where its mouth is with regard to the care of our elderly. I am glad to say that Scottish care-home providers are with us in that task.