Over 500 people died in NI hospitals after being passed fit for discharge

By Daren Johnston

New official figures have highlighted once again the enormous pressures on hospitals and mental health care and palliative care providers in Northern Ireland, as it was revealed that 512 people told that they were fit to leave died while waiting to be discharged in the last 3 years.

Other figures released after a Freedom of Information request have shown that a patient in Craigavon Psychiatric Unit waited 446 days to be discharged, with the longest waits across the different trusts ranging from 98 days in the Northern Trust to 294 days in the Belfast Trust.

Older people and patients with mental health problems are most effected because there is a shortage of beds in residential or nursing homes, or a lack of resources to ensure that an adequate community care package is in place for when they are released. This results in 'Bed-blocking', which is when a person is deemed to no longer require hospital treatment, but cannot be discharged from hospital as there is no suitable care in place for their release.

Northern Ireland is struggling to cope with the growing need for mental health services and there has been an effort to move mental health treatment out of hospitals and into the community. However a lack of resources means that hospitals across the country are regularly in a position to discharge a patient with mental health issues but there is no suitable care and treatment and arrangements in place. That being the case, the patients are required to remain in hospital for weeks and in many cases months.

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