Health bosses yesterday gave the go-ahead to a £850,000 pilot scheme aimed at tackling bed-blocking at Borders General Hospital this winter.
Scottish Borders Council’s health and social care integration joint board used emergency powers to address the ongoing problem of delayed discharges from the 328-bed Melrose hospital.
The plan agreed at yesterday’s meeting at Newstead is to reopen the former Craw Wood dementia residential unit at Tweedbank and use facilities at Hay Lodge Community Hospital in Peebles as assessment units to free up acute hospital beds.
The pilot scheme of discharging patients for assessment, to be introduced immediately for a six-month trial period, is seen as a way of dealing with elderly patients effectively stranded in hospital despite being physically well enough to return home or go to a more homely community facility.
Six to eight beds are to be made available at the Neidpath Road school and a further 15 will be on offer at Craw Wood.
A report to the committee said: “The number of patients stranded in hospital had improved last year. This year, however, has seen a return to the figures of 2014-5.
“The number of bed days associated with delayed discharges for residents over 75 years old was 647 in August of this year, compared with 522 in August 2016.
“In terms of bed days lost, when analysed per head of the population, these figures are among the worst in Scotland.
“This is clearly an avoidable financial pressure.
“In many areas of Scotland, efficiencies have been achieved by adopting a version of discharge to assess, which reduces stays in acute hospital beds as well as ensuring that people arrive back in their own home or their new home sooner.
“In addition, we are fully aware that any additional days spent in a hospital setting increase the risk of secondary infections, as well as increasing dependency levels.
“This makes discharge more complex, difficult and costly for health and social care and has a significant impact on the overall capacity of the hospital.”
Council convener David Parker: “We could spend the next nine months defining the perfect strategy, but we need to get on and solve the problem.
“What we have got is an absolute need to get on and do something to solve this problem, and we have the facilities sitting to do that.
“I think given the challenges we face, we need to get on.”
Council leader Shona Haslam said: “I think reopening Craw Wood is something that will be very popular with the community.
“It is something that the community has been asking for.”
The decision to close loss-making Craw Wood as a dementia unit was taken by its owner, the Eildon Group, in 2015.