Health chief stresses need to cut bed occupancy

The Border General Hospital near Melrose in The Scottish Borders.
The Border General Hospital near Melrose in The Scottish Borders.

High occupancy rates in the region’s hospitals highlight the need for the major review, beginning this month, of all aspects of in-patient care.

That is the view of Dr Sheena MacDonald, NHS Borders medical director, as she reacted this week to figures released under Freedom of Information to Conservative MSP John Lamont.

These show that in the Borders General Hospital over the last 12 months, an average of 82 per cent of all acute beds were occupied.

However, the rate was considerably higher in general medicine (95%) and in elderly medicine (98%) with the latter peaking at 100% in January and February of this year.

Over the year, the average occupancy of non-acute beds in the four community hospitals was as follows: Knoll (Duns) 82%, Hawick 94%, Kelso 96% and Hay Lodge (Peebles) 89%.

Mr Lamont claimed 85% was the maximum safe occupancy level at which patients could be treated.

“These figures highlight how busy NHS services are in the Borders and that staff are doing all they can to deliver care in challenging conditions,” he said.

“That is why it is right that NHS Borders is looking at how best to deliver its services and recognises the need to reduce the numbers of patients coming to the BGH, and to treat more patients in the community.

“These figures also highlight what a huge mistake it would be to close down our busy community hospitals.”

Dr MacDonald told us: “People in the Borders are hopefully now aware that we are testing each of our services against key principles, one of which is that our services will be safe, effective and of high quality.

“We can always do better for our patients and there are challenges ahead that will require different thinking.

“So, that’s why we are reviewing all of our clinical services – beginning with in-patient services.

“One of our aims is to reduce our occupancy levels through avoiding unnecessary admission and supporting more timely care nearer home.

“Community hospitals are an integral and important part of this. Our excellent staff are working hard ... to support the increasing demand on our services and, this winter, an increase in hospital admissions.

“I support them as we move forward on our review and on our improvement plans for those at the heart of our services – our patients and the increasing number of adults and older people with complex and numerous illnesses.”