The number of delayed discharges in Ayrshire's hospitals is as a result of a failure to pay carers a "proper wage", it's been claimed.

New figures have revealed there were 69,456 delayed discharges from the area's hospitals in the 12 months to the end of March.

That's slightly fewer than the total of 70,677 for the previous year. 

But it's still a significant increase on the total of 53,821 for the last full year before the Covid pandemic.

A delayed discharge occurs when a patient is deemed to be clinically ready for discharge, but cannot leave hospital because the care package they need, at home or in the community, is not available.

The Scottish Government says it has put a plan in place to try and ease the pressures faced by hospitals across the country.

But Labour MSP Colin Smyth claims the persistently high figure is the result of the failure to pay home carers a proper wage.

Mr Smyth, who represents the South Scotland region, has been campaigning for a minimum wage of £15 for care workers, with an immediate rise to £12 per hour from the current pay of less than £11 per hour in most case.

He said: “Years on from the Scottish Government promising to end the deadly and costly practice of delayed discharge, the problem in our region, like many other places across Scotland, has turned into a care crisis.

“Local hospitals are full of patients who shouldn’t be there, but they can’t go home because of a lack of home carers or no suitable accommodation, such as sheltered housing and residential care home spaces.  

“The figures for Ayrshire and Arran have remained largely unchanged when compared to the previous year, but are a big jump when you look at what they were pre-pandemic."

South Scotland MSP, Colin Smyth.South Scotland MSP, Colin Smyth. (Image: NQ Archive)

Mr Smyth said the problem had been "building for years" but little had been done to properly resolve it.

"We cannot have patients left in hospital unnecessarily and the public purse drained due to poor provision of care for those leaving hospital," he continued.

“It’s time we started paying our carers properly so we can tackle the recruitment crisis we face and in turn, end the shame of delayed discharge.”

The Scottish Government says work remains ongoing to deal with the issue across Scotland.

A spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work with health and social care partnerships to reduce delays in people leaving hospital.  

"The health and social care system continues to face pressure due to a number of factors, including availability of workforce, and suitable care placements.

“We have put in place the Delayed Discharge and Hospital Occupancy Action Plan to create the necessary capacity to deal with emerging pressures.

"We will continue to work with partners across all local authority areas to ensure a collaborative response in addressing the levels of delays and pressures being faced across local systems.”

NHS Ayrshire and Arran said it would not be commenting during the General Election campaign.