Claims raised that Borders General Hospital is ‘no longer fit for purpose’

Concerns have been raised that the Borders General Hospital is ‘no longer fit for purpose’ after a catalogue of grievances were raised at a public meeting last night, Wednesday, February 2.

By Paul Kelly
Monday, 7th February 2022, 12:32 pm
The Borders General Hospital at Melrose. Photo: Bill McBurnie

Members of Galashiels Community Council expressed support for the efforts and commitment of NHS staff at the Melrose hospital.

But a perceived lack of investment in new equipment and facilities and an inability to attract new staff were raised as serious ongoing concerns.

Committee chair Judith Cleghorn said: “We all know how much pressure the NHS is under and we all sympathise with those who have had difficulty in getting medical care when they needed it and give huge thanks to those who work in the NHS and realise just how much we owe them.

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“The Borders General was opened in 1988, 34 years ago, but times have changed and between 1998 and 2020 the population of the Borders increased by 8.7 per cent.

“House building continues and although there have been some additions to the hospital over the years I wonder whether the Borders General Hospital is still fit for purpose and still adequately able to serve the people of the Borders.”

One contributor raised two instances where they have encountered issues at the hospital.

He said: “I was running out of breath going up the stairs and they sent me to the hospital and they said they would fit me with a heart monitor for 24 hours. That was four weeks ago and I phoned up and they said ‘sorry, we can’t do it’ because I don’t think they have the cardiologists or whatever to cope with the influx of people arriving in the area.

“In the second instance, my wife has to have a thing removed from her chest and she was put in touch with the hospital and was told there were no consultants that could do it. So then, believe it or not, the NHS recommended that she used a private hospital in Edinburgh, which we have done, and we’re going to see the specialist in five days’ time.

“The hospital can’t seem to attract the consultants and whatever. She was 10 weeks waiting for an appointment at the Borders General so we decided to go private and we could only get it done by being recommended by the NHS.

“This has to go all the way back to Holyrood to bring in investment to bring the hospital back to a standard so we don’t have to go out of the area to be treated.”

Community councillor Bill White added: “The BGH has been a fantastic hospital but one of my concerns is communication. If you get through the door you get fantastic treatment.

“I have an instance of a colleague of mine who complained about stomach pains about nine months ago. They started it off with tablets and blood tests and then they were to get an ultra-sound and they said it normally took two weeks but because of Covid it would be four to six weeks and we are now seven months down the line and there’s not even been an email.

"Even if they could have said to the chap ‘look there’s 10,000 people on the list’ and say that he had to go private. But the fact that there has been no communication going on concerns me a wee bit.”

NHS Borders chief executive Ralph Roberts has apologised to patients who are still waiting for treatment.

In a statement to the Southern, he said: “Providing our patients with high quality, person-centred care is our priority. As part of this we continue to review and revise our plans to adapt to the changing nature of healthcare, our workforce and the local population. We are committed to progressing this work, however it will take time to further develop and then put into place following the pandemic.

“As aspects of daily life return to some normality it is important to recognise that the challenges and risks from Covid-19 are still here, these challenges are particularly felt across the health and social care system.

"Over the last two years we have had to make difficult decisions in order to keep our staff and patients safe and provide urgent and emergency lifesaving care to those who needed us most. This has resulted in significant backlogs of planned surgical procedures and we have been open and honest with our patients and the general public that these backlogs will take a long time to clear.

"We have written to our patients who are waiting to give them an update about their appointment or procedure along with advice as to what they can do if they need urgent help. We recognise that these backlogs mean that patients are waiting longer than they – and we – would wish for them to receive treatment. We really are sorry about this, especially when everyday life is being affected. However I can assure you that a robust process of clinical prioritisation is followed to ensure that those who need clinical care most urgently are treated first.

“Our staff have been under exceptional pressure for two years now and continue to face significant challenges. They are also frustrated that we cannot treat everyone as quickly as we would like to, but despite this, continue to deliver compassionate high quality care to their patients. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them again for their continued hard work and dedication.”