Battling to cure ‘bed blocking’

I was invited to spend a half-day in Borders General Hospital where I had the opportunity to see much of the excellent work staff are doing for patients.

I attended patient safety meetings, visited a number of wards and got to chat to senior members of staff, as well as doctors and nurses. It was a very informative visit and I was struck by how much good work is being done to improve patient flow and reduce what is called “bed blocking”.

This is an ongoing problem across the NHS and NHS Borders is already doing better than most to ensure patients are receiving treatment in the right location, but staff want to improve things further.

Any time a patient is left in a hospital bed when they are ready to go to a different ward, to the community or to be cared for at home is a waste of resources – and it isn’t in the patient’s best interest either.

The problem is that often getting the ongoing care arranged is difficult and sometimes out-with the control of clinicians. Nevertheless, staff are doing all they can to ensure that within the hospital things are run as smoothly as possible and that they work with GPs and care providers to move patients on, when appropriate.

I also had a frank discussion about issues you might have read about in this paper recently, such as the ongoing review of clinical services, the issues NHS Borders have had around cancelled operations and how the health board is dealing with patient complaints.

I am always impressed with the level of commitment all staff show for patient safety and improving patient care. Any comments I make about our health service are never a criticism of doctors, nurses or other healthcare professionals who do a fantastic job.

But I realise their already difficult jobs are being made any harder by the Scottish Government which is failing to invest in our health service in the Borders and has failed to reform our NHS.

I also asked if I could see the Margaret Kerr Unit, the new palliative care facility opened in 2013.

By the grace of God, I have not had to visit a relative here, but I had heard so much about it from patients and families who are impressed with the level of care provided.

The whole of the Borders got behind the fundraising effort to build the unit and it is a fantastic facility, providing a peaceful and supportive environment for patients and their families in difficult times. It is designed with patients’ dignity and care in mind and staffed by some of the most hard-working and highly-skilled clinicians around.


My weekly surgeries throughout my constituency of Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire take place on Wednesday mornings.

I will be in Jedburgh and Kelso on Wednesday, October 28. More details and further dates can be found on my website –

No appointment is necessary, so please feel free to come along if you have a problem which you think that I might be able to help with. Alternatively, please call my constituency office on 01450 375 948 and I will do my best to assist.

For tours of the Scottish Parliament, please contact my parliamentary office on 0131 348 6533.