AFTER stinging criticism from government inspectors over the care given to dementia sufferers and the elderly at the region’s biggest hospital, Borders health chiefs say lessons will be learned and the issues raised dealt with.
The recent visit by an inspection team from Healthcare Improvement Scotland highlighted four areas of strength at Borders General Hospital, but called for a major shake-up of procedures after highlighting a further 13 areas of concern.
These included staff found discussing patients’ needs in ward corridors and displaying sensitive and personal information inappropriately.
Inspectors said such actions “compromised patients’ right to dignity and respect” and described the hospital as “not dementia friendly” as well as revealing that patients were moved around wards and even transferred to other hospitals late at night and when eating meals.
The report also said: “We noted occasions where the needs of patients were not put first.
“The needs of the service were put before the needs of the patient.”
The inspection of the BGH, which took place over three days in July, was one of a number being carried out across Scottish health board areas and focussed on the care of patients with dementia and cognitive impairment, and nutritional care and hydration.
Inspectors spoke with staff and observed them at work. They also interviewed and used questionnaires to gather the views of patients and their carers.
The report also highlighted a number of areas where NHS Borders is performing well, such as involving relatives and carers in patients’ care, the work of the Older People Psychiatric Liaison Team in providing the bridge between services, and the good working relationship between ward staff and catering services.
NHS Borders chairman, John Raine, said the inspection produced both positives and negatives.
“The inspection identified a number of weaknesses concerning relatively small issues and these will all be addressed,” he told us.
“But these did not amount to any systemic failure and we take some comfort that there was a big approval rating from patients.”
Mr Raine said any organisation undergoing an inspection was bound to have some shortcomings highlighted.
“That is the nature of an investigation. There are lessons for us, but there are also real positives and patients can have confidence in the service they receive at the BGH.”
NHS Borders chief executive, Calum Campbell, added: “We recognise there are some areas of improvement needed to create a more dementia-friendly environment and we are fully committed to making these changes.”
In the official response issued by NHS Borders last week, Mr Campbell had also said the organisation had taken a lot of positives from the inspection and that the subsequent report showed that real progress had been made and the processes, procedures and structures in place to provide appropriate care for older patients were in place.
However, one senior Borders councillor says what the inspectors’ findings really show is a need for more concentration on basic nursing skills.
Michelle Ballantyne, leader of the Conservative group on Scottish Borders Council, said the people who paid for and use services seemed to be getting the least consideration at times.
“For all our ‘consultations and public inclusion’ we still seem to struggle to get the basics right and provide respectful, caring facilities where we treat people as we would want to be treated,” Mrs Ballantyne told us.
“At the risk of sounding old-fashioned and boring, as an ‘old school nurse’, I think the march to ‘professionalise’ nursing has also brought detriment to the care of patients and we could do worse than to revisit some of the basic nursing skills.”
Local MSP Christine Grahame (SNP) is also not happy, calling on NHS Borders to deal with the inspectors’ concerns as a matter of urgency.
The Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP told us: “It must be a cause for concern that no fewer than 13 areas of concern have been identified and which need to be addressed so that the BGH can meet official NHS standards.
“I do accept that there are four areas of strength outlined in the document, not least the standard of the meals.
“But inevitably it is the negatives which make the headlines and there appears to be a need for radical changes to a number of procedures within the hospital.”