A BORDERS health chief says that delayed discharge is a “very significant” issue for the NHS in the region.

Speaking to the Scottish Government’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee on Tuesday (March 21), NHS Borders chief executive Ralph Roberts explained how the board monitors the issue on a “daily basis”.

He said: “This isn’t just about social care this is about the way in which our clinicians make decisions, the way in which we support people through the system.

“We’re sitting at something like 30 per cent of our beds in the Borders are currently occupied with delayed discharges.

“If you go back to pre-pandemic, we probably had around 20 delays at one time and we felt that was too high at that point.

“Notwithstanding the impact it has on the system, that is about an individual not getting the care that they need at the right time, in the right place.

“Yesterday we had 68 delayed discharges in our system.

“The consequences of that for us is, one, the impact that then has on our ability to have elective capacity, but the other issue that has caused for us is it has increased our overall length of stay, along with a number of other issues.”

Glasgow MSP Paul Sweeney asked if there was a “viable mechanism” to “recover the situation”.

Mr Roberts said it was important to remember that the health board discharges “well over 90 per cent of our patients without any delays”.

He added: “We’ve done quite a lot of work recently, in the last six months, around focusing on that continuous improvement of our individual processes.

“There are issues in there around realistic medicine in terms of the choices clinicians are making around the level of treatment that is appropriate to their needs and not being unrealistic about that.

“But beyond that there is no doubt that in my mind there is an issue around the level of social care support that we’ve got.”

Mr Roberts said that social care workers have shared that staff retention and recruitment are a key issues.

“We have to address that as a health and care system,” he added. “Our staff say to me a lot that they are looking for the acknowledgement that we need to radically change the health service going forward, and we need to recognise that the health service needs to continue to evolve.”

The issues at NHS Borders are compounded by increasing energy costs, with Mr Roberts telling the committee that the health board is set to pay £1 million more for energy costs into next year.

He said: “Our financial position has deteriorated over the last couple of years and going into next year, and a part of that – there is no doubt – is inflation.

“I think we’re projecting about a million pounds more in energy costs going into next year, so it’s not an insignificant figure.”