ERI's poor prognosis

Share this article

IT took literally decades to get the project to build Edinburgh a new Royal Infirmary off the ground. Even when Ministers agreed that it should be built, it took the best part of ten years between agreeing details like bed numbers and the final phase of the hospital opening its doors earlier this year.

And even when the PFI deal was being signed to build the hospital, there were claims from health unions and some doctors that the bed numbers were being scaled back to cut costs.

The claims were denied, but after an inquiry held by Lothian Health in 1999, even health chiefs admitted that the bed numbers would only be sufficient provided there was adequate back-up from health care services in the community, particularly to care for the elderly and tackle bed blocking.

Now, less than six months after the final phase of the hospital opened, it has been claimed that there are not enough beds to cope. Nineteen beds have been closed in maternity to accommodate the needs of the geriatric wards.

The Trust insists that it was always planned that these beds would transfer to care of the elderly once the second phase of the hospital was open. But when women who have just lost a baby are being cared for in beds next to women who have just given birth to a healthy child, clearly these plans are not working.

Bringing ante-natal and post-natal beds together is a retrograde step for patient care - as is losing the family room for parents who have just lost their baby. If there are not enough beds to accommodate the number of women giving birth in Edinburgh, then there needs to be a rethink on maternity services.

Health chiefs also need to listen closely to the concerns of neonatal specialist Dr Ian Laing, the associate clinical director of the maternity unit, who has warned that babies could be at risk because paediatric experts are based several miles away at the Sick Kids Hospital. Dr Laing made his comments when warning Glasgow’s health chiefs not to make the same mistakes as Edinburgh.

This is hardly reassuring news for prospective parents who have been led to expect top-class medical care as well as state-of-the-art facilities at Little France.

Patients will also be concerned by the fact that the hospital has suffered a second serious power failure. The power system failed to work properly after a surge in the electricity supply.

Brian Cavanagh, the chairman of NHS Lothian, has called for an apology from the contractors and has demanded an "urgent meeting" to discuss the problem. His reaction is strangely reminiscent of the last time there was a power failure which put patients at risk.

The board of NHS Lothian have a bigger task on their hands, however. They must restore confidence that this flagship hospital that was so long in the planning is actually capable of meeting the needs of Lothian patients.

Camera spy

IT is now some time since the introduction of CCTV cameras in the city centre sparked any controversy. There is now no question that the footage recorded by these cameras has become a valuable tool in the fight against crime.

So the council’s decision to use a mobile CCTV unit to tackle anti-social behaviour can only be a good thing. If the police can use the vehicle to help them deal with major events in the city, even better.

The only drawback might be that the vehicle is so highly visible that while it might act as a deterrent, it could drive the crime elsewhere.

But the beauty of a mobile CCTV unit is that it can also catch troublemakers unawares and beam pictures straight to the police station.

And the more likely it is that troublemakers are caught in the act, the better it will be for the city.