NHS chief defends use of patient boarding at BGH

NHS Borders has refuted allegations of inappropriate use of Margaret Kerr Unit beds to ease pressures elsewhere in Borders General Hospital.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 21st August 2014, 10:30 am
The Margaret Kerr Unit in the grounds of The Border General Hospital near Melrose in The Scottish Borders.
The Margaret Kerr Unit in the grounds of The Border General Hospital near Melrose in The Scottish Borders.

The health authority was responding after being confronted with details of claims made by a source who contacted The Southern.

The person, who asked to remain anonymous, told us: “I am concerned that the managers at BGH are using beds in the Margaret Kerr Unit inappropriately.

“As you know, the unit was built using donations from members of the public for palliative care patients within the Borders, but hospital managers are using it for boarding patients due to bed pressures. This is highly inappropriate.”

Patient boarding is where a patient is put in a bed in a ward dealing with a specialism different to their own diagnosis.

In a statement issued this week, NHS Borders said it always tries to minimise boarding in all areas of the BGH, but that the eight beds in the Margaret Kerr Unit are regarded as part of the total bed complement of the hospital.

Quizzed further, NHS Borders chief executive Calum Campbell told us that the BGH is a small district hospital with multiple clinical specialities and that in order to treat people and keep the hospital open for emergency admissions, it is inevitable that some boarding will take place.

“This will only happen when clinically justifiable, and NHS Borders always tries to minimise this across all areas,” he said.

“Specifically in relation to the Margaret Kerr Unit, an audit over the last three months shows that less than 1 per cent of the available bed days have been utilised by patients being boarded into the unit.”

However, boarding remains a controversial practice.

Researchers have warned that moving patients between wards can result in longer hospital stays and an increased risk of infections spreading.

Asked to comment, Macmillan Cancer Support, which donated £750,000 to the original Margaret Kerr Unit appeal, said: “We would expect the unit to be used by patients with specialist palliative care needs, however, we appreciate on very rare occasions the NHS may need to move patients with other needs into the unit for a short time.”