Board backs business plan for £4.5m palliative care unit at Borders General

THE Borders is set to lose the unenviable tag of being the only health authority area in Scotland which not does not have a specialist facility dedicated to the care of dying patients.

The board of NHS Borders met in Selkirk last week and unanimously backed a business plan for the creation of the Margaret Kerr Unit at the Borders General Hospital.

Work is set to begin next spring on creating the £4.5million complex, which incorporates the refurbishment of the BGH’s stroke unit, with completion provisionally predicted for January 2013.

The unit will acknowledge the eponymous benefactor who died in March 2009, aged 83.

Margaret Kerr from West Linton dedicated her life to nursing and made an MBE for services to her profession.

Aware that the region did not have specialist facilities for dying patients and their families, despite having the highest percentage of elderly people in mainland Scotland, she specified in her will that nearly £600,000 should “support the creation of a hospice in the Borders”.

The word ‘hospice’ is not mentioned in this week’s statement from NHS Borders.

Instead, it refers to a palliative care specialist in-patient unit which will be created by remodelling and extending one end of an existing ward building. It will have its own entrance with adjacent landscaping and car parking while retaining an “essential link” to the main body of the hospital.

Dr Ross Cameron, medical director with NHS Borders, said this week: “We recognised that the existing model of inpatient specialist palliative care created significant challenges for us in respect of patient-mix, continuity of care, clinical risk and the ability to deliver patient-centred care to the level we wanted.

“We worked hard, through the development of this business case, to identify the most suitable solution to improve the environment for palliative care and stroke patients within the BGH and to address these challenges.

“Significant developments in fundraising have also created the potential for us to deliver an innovative and inspiring facility that will greatly improve patient care.

“I am delighted that the business case has been approved and we can now deliver this facility, which will enable our skilled multi-disciplinary palliative care team to deliver more appropriate and high quality care and support to patients and their families.

“Experience in other parts of the country and the views of patients, carers and palliative care clinicians have informed the whole design process. Building works and interior design will be carried out to a high specification throughout. There will be en-suite patient rooms, as well as clinical areas, day rooms and accommodation for relatives. The aim is to create a comfortable, welcoming and peaceful building for everyone.“

Dr Cameron confirmed that Miss Kerr’s legacy will be applied “in its totality” to the project.

He told us: “The creation of the unit will be made possible by securing charitable support to cover the capital costs, which will be in the region of £4.5million.

“To date, considerably more than half of the total capital costs have been secured in the form of firm pledges from key stakeholders and partners in the project and we are extremely grateful for their support.”

He said the remaining sum to be raised will be the subject of a local fundraising appeal and continuing approaches to grant making bodies.

The local appeal will be launched in September.