Bed occupancy rate ‘regularly running at unsafe levels’

Borders General Hospital is regularly running at a bed occupancy rate above a level considered to be safe for patients, according to a report from BBC Scotland.

BBC Scotland figures show that over a 15 month period from January 2013 to March 2014 there were only two months when bed occupancy levels at the BGH were below 85% – May and June last year.

Such high levels can lead to patients being moved into wards which may not be appropriate for the care they require.

Outgoing president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Dr Neil Dewhurst, said evidence shows that 85% is “the maximum safe level at which we can treat patients”.

Ellen Hudson, associate director of the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland, also indicated that high occupancy rates can lead to patient harm.

“It’s really not good for patient care especially if you’ve got older patients who maybe have dementia – they can get really disoriented and very distressed.

“They need to be cared for in the right place with the staff that have the skills to deal with their condition.”

For nine months the BGH occupancy levels ran at over 100%, reaching 113.89% in January this year.

However, the BBC Scotland figures do not take into account patients who have been “boarded” to other wards which is why their figures are different to those provided by NHS Borders.

The health board’s bed occupancy figures for 2014 range from 86.2% in January to 79.3% in June.

A spokesperson for NHS Borders said: “In order to support patient flow across the whole system and to provide a high standard of care, NHS Borders will activate surge capacity to manage periods of high demand.

“Patient safety remains the number one priority for NHS Borders.

“NHS Borders closely monitors bed occupancy levels to ensure safe levels of care.”