Charity says BGH buckling under strain

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SCOTLAND’s leading charity for older people believes Borders General Hospital is among a number of healthcare services “buckling under the strain” of coping with elderly patients.

Age Scotland has reacted to the first report to concentrate on how the BGH looks after OAP admissions, including dementia sufferers.

It was reported last month that a team from Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) inspected the hospital in July as part of a new Scottish Government initiative to raise standards of care for old people.

They found four areas of strength but 13 areas of concern, including the dignity and confidentiality of patients not always being maintained, and staff using inappropriate language.

Age Scotland has now questioned whether more investment is needed to properly care for the country’s pensioner population.

A spokesman for the charity said: “Let’s be clear; our hospitals are not disaster zones. According to Ian Smith, acting HIS chief inspector; ‘In the majority of our observations, we saw staff treating older people with compassion, dignity and respect. We also noted that many hospitals have started to make the hospital environment more suitable for patients with dementia’.

“Yet the report does give a strong impression of hospital services buckling under the strain. There is no such thing as a perfect hospital, and often, good and less good practices appear side by side.

“Take the Borders General Hospital, where inspectors found good quality and well appreciated food, meal-times that were well managed on some wards, and staff knowledgeable and well informed about individual patients’ dietary needs.

“Here, however, they also found a lack of personalised nutritional care plans to provide information about individual patients’ specific needs or preferences.

“It should be possible to fix some recurring problems, for example the use of inappropriate language, at relatively low cost, although changing culture and habit will demand perseverance and focus of managers.

“Other issues, such as the poor environment in some wards and far too frequent late-night bed moves, raise serious questions about the resources available to fix them in this age of austerity.

“Although pipeline reforms of health and social care should help, by keeping more older people in good health at home, we also need to ask what kind of hospital care we expect for ourselves, and for those we love, in later life.”

The assessment of the BGH noted occasions when the needs of the hospital’s older admissions were not put first, while the Melrose-based facility was also labelled unfriendly to dementia sufferers.

One patient complained of being moved from ward to ward and another said: “The noise at times has been unbearable.”

Calum Campbell, NHS Borders’ chief executive, said the health board is continuing to act upon the inspectors’ recommendations.

He added: “Since the report we have undertaken an extensive programme of reinforcement of our policies and procedures, specifically including those concerning confidentiality and dignity, which is supported by monitoring and spot checks by senior managers.

“Improving care is an ongoing process and we continue to build on the work we have done to further improve the care of older people.”