NHS Borders praised for BGH infection control improvements

INSPECTORS who previously produced a damning report into the cleanliness of Borders General Hospital have praised the facility for its improved performance.

The Healthcare Environment Inspectorate said the hospital was clean and well maintained, staff were aware of infection control policies and there was good compliance with dress code policy and hand hygiene.

Led by inspector Jane Walker in December, while BGH staff tackled a Norovirus outbreak, the HEI team only made three requirements, among them a discovery that paperwork associated with catheter use was not always completed.

The report’s findings are vastly different from the BGH’s first HEI visit in March 2010, when 13 improvements were demanded, leading the Scottish Government’s then health secretary Nicola Sturgeon to describe the results as “clearly disappointing”.

Speaking this week, NHS Borders chief executive Calum Campbell said: “Overall the inspection team has found evidence that NHS Borders has worked hard to improve our compliance with NHS QIS HAI standards to protect, patients, staff and visitors.

“Since the previous HEI report issued in 2011, it is clear that further progress has been made within the BGH and we are continuing to improve our policies and practices.

“This latest report is a testament to the continued effort staff put in to making important improvements to the healthcare environment of our patients.

“Patient safety is our number one priority and we have shown we are committed to providing high standards of care, cleanliness and hygiene to minimise the risk of healthcare associated infection.

“We already have an action plan in place to ensure we implement the recommendations set out in the report and a number of those actions have already been completed.

“I am confident this will ensure sustained improvements to our service.”

Inspectors were hugely critical of the BGH’s infection control measures during two visits to the facility three years ago.

In particular, they noted failures to take into account risks in ward eight.

The HEI team found out-of-date medicines in the ward’s drug refrigerator, and were unable to discover if the supplies had been used.

The 2010 report also showed there was no evidence of a consistent approach to cleaning patient equipment or proper allocation of cleaning duties.

However, along with the catheter issue, the only other requirements made by HEI in December 2012 was to ensure cleaning schedules were consistently completed, and to speak to more patients and visitors about the hospital’s infection control and prevention measures.

The report added: “Staff we spoke with in Borders General Hospital were clear about their roles and responsibilities for infection prevention and control.

“There was evidence that staff felt empowered to challenge others about infection prevention and control, especially the zero tolerance approach to hand hygiene.”

Meanwhile, NHS Borders is looking to minimise the impact of staffing shortages in its children’s ward.

A freedom of information enquiry has revealed two middle-grade training doctors posts within the ward at the hospital have been vacant for two years, as paediatric services are threatened across the country by a lack of suitable staff.

The crisis led to the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston shutting for three weeks last year, with fears similar problems could be experienced at the BGH.

Sheena Macdonald, NHS Borders’ medical director, said: “Within the NHS in the UK, it has been recognised that there is a national shortage of experienced paediatric registrars for staffing in the acute specialities.

“NHS Borders is working with the other boards in South East and Tayside (SEAT) and NHS Education for Scotland to look at all options to minimise any potential impact this could have on the provision of existing services within the regions.

“Locally we continue to invest in our children’s and maternity services to ensure we can provide safe, effective and high quality care.

“We have developed an innovative model to support the continuation of overnight paediatric services.

“This involves developing the skills of paediatric and neonatal nurse practitioners to create a service that will be sustainable in the long term.”

South of Scotland MSP Jim Hume added: “Some paediatric units are already operating with less than half the staff they need, with posts remaining vacant for over two years.

“We cannot afford any more time to be wasted in addressing this staffing crisis. It is time the health secretary (Alex Neil) accepted responsibility and sorted out the staffing shortages which are affecting hospitals across Scotland.”