Thousands of mental health patients have been left “trapped in hospitals” because of a lack of community care.

New figures from Public Health Scotland show that there were 111,130 delayed discharge bed days occupied in mental health specialities in 2022/23.

That’s up from 98,716 bed days for 2021/22, a 13% increase.

According to the Quality Indicator Profile for Mental Health paper, published last week, the rate of delayed discharge among over 18s has increased to 24.9 per 1,000 in 2022/2023, compared to 22.2 per 1,000 in 2021/22.

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One mental health charity told The Herald on Sunday, it was a “clear symptom” of “not enough money being put into non-clinical, preventative support to help people with mental illness and mental health.”

The Lib Dems laid the blame at the feet of the Scottish Government, with Alex Cole-Hamilton saying the SNP’s “track record on mental health has been utterly dismal.

Earlier this year figures showed that more than 300 patients with mental health problems had to stay in hospital waiting for 356 mental health patients were kept in hospital, despite meeting the criteria to be discharged.

In NHS Lothian, one patient had their departure from hospital delayed by between 3,000 and 3,500 days, nine and a half years.

Nick Ward, CEO at Change Mental Health, said: “We’re really concerned that this situation is getting worse.

“This represents too many people stuck in hospital, which is not where they need to be, not getting the support they need and costing the NHS considerable sums of money.

“There is simply not enough community support available, like those offered by Change Mental Health.

“We need a health system that focuses on early intervention and prevention to stop people needing to go into hospital in the first place.

“This is a clear symptom of the problem that there is not enough money being put into non-clinical, preventative support to help people with mental illness and mental health.”

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Mr Cole-Hamilton said: "Thousands of NHS bed days are being lost and patients trapped in hospitals when they could be properly cared for in the community and at home.

“For vulnerable people struggling with their mental health, not being able to leave hospital can be particularly upsetting, especially when the main roadblock is lack of social care packages.

“They need robust community care that brings them closer to their support networks, enables a sustained recovery and rebuilds lives. It's also bad for the NHS because those beds are not available to treat others in need.

“Delayed discharges from mental health specialities can be of a very complex nature, but those challenges are made so much worse by the pressures and gaps in community care.“

He added: "The SNP’s track record on mental health has been utterly dismal. I cannot understand how nationalist ministers can hear the stories of children and adults in mental torment and respond with budget cuts and inaction.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats would ensure everyone has access to comprehensive mental health support in the community.

"That means investing in community-based services that will deliver appropriate clinical support, accommodation and tenancy support, and training more professionals in key roles from psychiatrists to mental health officers."

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It comes as the former chief executive of NHS Scotland, Professor Paul Gray, told the BBC that the health service in its current form is not sustainable and called for a "mature debate" on the role that the private sector could play.

He suggested that charging some patients for treatment on the NHS could be considered.

He said: "What we can't afford is just to carry on as we are and hope for the best. The consequence is that everything slowly gets worse.

"The pressure on staff continues to grow. The service that patients and their families receive, despite the best efforts of everyone, continues to reduce."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Latest figures show that over 95% of discharges were without delay nationwide.

“We are working closely with health boards and health and social care partnerships to create the necessary capacity to deal with emerging pressures over winter and to ensure patients are assessed and discharged with the appropriate care package as quickly as possible.  

“Significant additional annual funding has been allocated to support social care including £124 million to enhance care at home capacity as well as an additional £100 million to uplift adult social care pay up to a minimum rate of £10.90 per hour, with staff receiving at least £12 an hour, from April.

“We provided £3.6 million this year to support growth of Hospital at Home services for older people and have also invested additional funds of up to £12 million as part of our winter plan to increase capacity.”