Falling bed numbers spark concerns for Royal Edinburgh patients

cuts in bed numbers at Edinburgh's main psychiatric hospital have made patients reluctant to leave the ward in case they lose their place.

The Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Picture: Toby Williams
The Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Picture: Toby Williams

Statistics show beds at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital have fallen by over 100 in the past ten years – from 447 in 2007/08 to 344 last year.

And reports by the Mental Welfare Commission say that patients in some wards now don’t want to go out on passes for fear of finding their bed has been given to someone else by the time they get back.

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An inspection report on Merchiston and Meadows wards said: “A member of staff advised us that patients are reluctant to go out on pass, as there may not be a bed for them when they return to their ward.”

And another report on 
Hermitage ward noted: “For those patients who have been able to leave the ward on an overnight pass, we were informed that there is an issue about having a room to return to.

“One patient told us that they had to pack their belongings prior to leaving the ward and returned to find that they were in another room.

“Another patient explained that they were reluctant to go on pass due to their concern about coming back and not having a room, or being placed in another ward.”

Lothian MSP and Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “Is this what it has come to under the SNP, that patients do not want to leave their ward because there might be someone in their bed when they come back? It is staggering the extent to which SNP ministers have mismanaged NHS Scotland over the last ten years, such as consistently reducing the number of available beds as demand rises.”

Alison Thomson, executive director (nursing) at the Mental Welfare Commission, said: “On our visits we meet with staff, patients and carers and discuss how they feel about the care and treatment provided.”

The commission visited Balcarres, Craiglockhart, Merchiston and Meadows wards in November 2017 and Hermitage Ward in February 2018. As reported, on these visits we heard concerns from patients and staff about the high levels of occupancy in some wards and the difficulties this can cause. We have asked senior managers to keep us updated and we will continue to follow up on these concerns as part of our local visit programme to the hospital.

Dr Tracey Gillies, medical director, NHS Lothian, said: “The demands on mental health services are increasing and we are working to ensure patients who are clinically well can be discharged from an acute setting, back into the community so we can focus on keeping beds available for those who need them most, including patients returning from ward leave and urgent admissions.”