A grandad who suffered a catastrophic brain haemorrhage has claimed he is being “held captive” in hospital due to a housing crisis in the Highlands.
James Noble has been fit enough to leave hospital for the last six months, but has not yet been found suitable accommodation.
The 57-year-old, who now relies on a walking stick and motorised wheelchair to get around, is unable to return to his home in Inverness, as all the living accommodation is upstairs.
NHS Highland and Highland Council have been unable to find him anywhere else to go, meaning he has been stuck in hospital since spring. Both organisations said they were well aware of his distressing position and insist they are working to resolve the matter as urgently as possible.
But Mr Noble said more needs to be done, adding: “I am bed-blocking a vital resource for someone else who actually needs hospital care.
“I have been deemed fit since the spring but am still trapped. It is like being held captive.”
The keen karate enthusiast, skier and weightlifter believes he would have died had he not been so fit. The grandfather, who had been caring for his estranged wife before falling ill, initially believed he was having a stroke when he collapsed on December 15 last year.
But it emerged he had suffered a brain haemorrhage, and he was placed in the high dependency unit at Raigmore Hospital.
He was in and out of consciousness for two weeks before being placed on a ward.
He has lost the use of part of his brain about an inch in diameter and is partially paralysed down his left side, unable to use his arm and has little feeling in his leg.
Mr Noble, who was moved to the Royal Northern Infirmary in July, said: “I have been through hellish physiotherapy in a bid to get walking again, and am improving. I can use a walking stick a little bit, but still depend on my motorised wheelchair.
“I have been fit to live independently since the spring, but there is no house available. It is a shocking indictment on the housing crisis.
“My house is not suitable, as it has staircases, so I have nowhere to go if I am discharged. But there is no medical reason for me being here.”
And as a result of being in hospital care, Mr Noble has not received certain benefits. The entitlement, known as PIP, and worth around £100 a week for someone in Mr Noble’s condition, can only be achieved when he moves into the community as it is to assist with mobility – and currently, it is considered his needs are being catered for in hospital.
NHS Highland has confirmed the case of bedblocking, admitting: “It is in no one’s interests to be stuck in hospital when they don’t need to be.
“We are actively chasing up Mr Noble’s case with Highland Council who are responsible for housing.”
A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “Although we cannot go into the details of this case we are aware of the needs of Mr Noble and currently no suitable housing is available that suits his requirements.
“When a suitable property becomes vacant in his areas of choice with either the council or one of our social housing partners he will be advised.”
Rhoda Grant, MSP for the Highlands and Islands, was astonished at the length of time Mr Noble had already spent in hospital, saying: “It must be like living in a prison for him. Bed-blocking is more common in cases where there is a lack of after-care support for the patient in the community, such as home care.
“But not being discharged due to a lack of available housing is new to me. It is a considerable amount of time and you would imagine an answer should have been found sooner.
“To be stuck in hospital must be difficult for the person affected, as he can’t go about his day-to-day life. But it is also not good for the staff as the bed-blocking is taking up essential space and resources. It is not a good use of scarce resources.”