Borders General Hospital’s main operating theatre is not at crisis point despite staffing problems caused by nurses off sick and vacancies.
That was NHS Borders’ official position yesterday when it was quizzed by The Southern Reporter over concerns from several nurses that the situation at the hospital’s main operating theatre had reached a crisis point.
There has also been growing speculation among staff members that the difficulties at the main theatre could even lead to the BGH’s day procedure theatre being closed and its staff forced to work main theatre hours, including weekends and being on call.
Asked to respond to these claims, NHS Borders said the hospital’s main operating theatre and day procedure unit “operate to deal with patients in the most effective way possible” and that the day procedure unit is regarded by health chiefs as being essential to the work of the BGH now and for the future.
Alasdair Pattinson, who is the NHS Borders general manager for acute, primary and community services, told us: “Theatres in the BGH have undoubtedly had challenges in relation to staff sickness absence, as well as staff vacancies over recent months.
“Recruitment to our main theatre has been challenging, not just for the Borders, but across Scotland and the UK, so it is particularly positive that we have now recruited to all but one of our vacant posts. We continue to work on this single vacancy.
“To support flexibility and skills of existing and new staff, we have in place a robust training plan.
“On the matter of sickness absence, we have a very clear policy that has been developed in partnership with staff, and we follow this so that any staff member who is sick or unwell can be fully and appropriately supported.
“NHS Borders has recently been recognised as one of the CHKS 40 Top Hospitals in the UK. CHKS measures NHS boards and trusts through a series of performance indicators.
“The 40 top hospitals award is based on the evaluation of 22 indicators of clinical effectiveness, health outcomes, efficiency, patient experience and quality of care.”
Commenting, Lynn McDowall, Royal College of Nursing Officer for Borders, said: “While there have been some difficulties with theatre staffing at Borders General Hospital which the health board has been trying to address, plans for the hospital as a whole are very positive, with NHS Borders planning major recruitment drives to ensure services provided by the hospital are of the highest quality.
“But NHS Borders is not the only health board struggling to fill posts after years of cuts, so demand for new staff across Scotland is high.”