Fife’s hospitals are discharging record numbers of patients into the community as demand for healthcare soars.
An average of 96 people now leave hospital every week, up from 55 before the pandemic.
And 127 patients were discharged from Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy last week alone.
The figures are revealed amid unprecedented demand on health services across the country.
Fife staff have been praised for their actions to free up hospital beds for those awaiting treatment.
However, some concern has been expressed about the ability of community services to cope with the extra demand.
Care at home services and care homes are reporting difficulty with recruitment.
And there are fears they are becoming “over-stretched”.
Planning in place to deal with winter pressure
Lynne Garvey, Fife Health and Social Care Partnership‘s head of community care services, said last winter was one of the most highly-pressured ever experienced.
However, she gave an assurance plans were in place to deal with this winter’s strains.
Some of the actions taken include earlier planning to ensure arrangements are in place before a patient is ruled medically fit to leave hospital.
“Previously, we would wait until people were fit before we started discharge planning,” Ms Garvey said.
In addition, more people are being treated for long-term conditions at home.
Ms Garvey said the result is a reduction in Victoria Hospital‘s waiting list.
And she added: “Despite the significant increase in demand for health and social care , our team’s performance has exceeded any other year.”
Care at home services under pressure
However, the Care Inspectorate is reporting an increase in staff vacancies within Scotland’s care services.
In Fife, more than half of services reported vacancies in December 2022.
NHS Fife employee director Wilma Brown said: “I’m a lot more reassured we’re able to get people out of hospital more quickly.
“But one thing is a lack of home carers in the community. It’s the area we’ve probably had the most difficulty in over the last few years.”
Staff need more support
She added: “The plans to get people home are fantastic but if we don’t have enough bodies on the ground…
“We should make sure we do everything possible to support our staff leading up to winter.”
Ms Brown’s comments were backed by Fife Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie.
He said: “Those who work in the care sector do an incredibly important job and need much more support.
“The SNP government’s poor workforce planning has left the sector overstretched and in crisis.”