Hospital advice service dropped

A SERVICE that provides hospital patients with advice and information to help them settle back into their home after illness has been axed after NHS Lothian suffered a decline in private donations.

Citizens Advice Edinburgh (CAE) had been offering advice to patients and staff at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary four days a week and staff also attended the Royal Edinburgh Hospital once a week.

The advice and information service has been dropped after its main funder, a charity fund run by NHS Lothian, announced that it would not provide any further funding to the project, which started in 2008.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Endowment Fund of NHS Lothian, which collects all money and other assets donated to the health service in the Lothians, has now closed to new applicants because of the decline in income in the last year.

It means the CAE service in hospitals has been dropped despite an independent evaluation of the project giving it a glowing report earlier this year. The pilot cost 80,000 to run for two years.

The move has led to fears that it will be more difficult for many patients to settle back into their homes, particularly after a lengthy stay in hospital.

Labour councillor Ewan Aitken said: "People that use the service get information about benefits they will be entitled to, disability allowance, carers' allowance. All that support is provided directly and immediately so it makes it a much more seamless transition when patients return home.

"If you remove that, you will have people who need the support the most moving out of hospital and back into their home and not getting that support. It will be a case of more suffering."

CAE first started offering advice directly from the ERI and the Royal Edinburgh as part of a pilot project funded by the Endowment Fund of NHS Lothian.

But it was unable to secure new funding after the decision to close the Endowment Fund, which has accrued more than 60 million and has spent 1.5m every year on a variety of items, including pieces of equipment and money for research projects. It is also currently recruiting a 70,000-a-year chief executive.

Because CAE was running only a pilot project, it was considered a new applicant for funding and barred from receiving any more grants. Its services were stopped just over a fortnight ago.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Moira Tasker, chief executive of Citizens Advice Edinburgh, said: "Our service was much valued and made a real difference to the lives of patients, staff and visitors seeking practical help and advice."

The service has closed despite an evaluation report carried out in January 2010 judging it a success.Susan Goldsmith, director of finance at NHS Lothian, said: "In 2009-10 no new applications for funding were accepted because the income we received was only sufficient to fund existing projects.

"Any applicant receiving funds is made fully aware that funding is not guaranteed beyond their initial allocation, and they cannot rely on being granted funding in future years."