NHS bosses vow Fife will not see repeat of last year’s winter woes

Dave Stewart outside the new Vic wing
Dave Stewart outside the new Vic wing

Despite “significant challenges” to find more beds and recruit more staff, NHS Fife believes it has a plan in place to meet capacity this winter.

That was the vow given by NHS boss Dave Stewart as he chaired the newly-established Acute Services Divisional Committee yesterday (Wednesday) at Kirkcaldy’s Victoria Hospital.

He said: “Now we’ve done the bricks and cement we need to look forward and fix the problems of capacity and patient flow - problems which have existed long before we moved into this new wing.”

Members heard details of a new £4m care action plan, whose key component is a new Discharge Hub which is already working to clear a backlog of delayed discharges.

Dr Gordon Birnie, medical director of acute services, told committee members there were 120 patients blocking 25 per cent of acute beds in the system.

And given NHS Fife needed an extra 105 beds to deal with admissions over the winter period, he welcomed any strategy to bring the number of delayed discharges down.

Committee member John Winton commented: “If we could get everybody who was fit to be discharged out within 24 hours then there would be no capacity issues at all.

“It’s the biggest single challenge we face.”

He added: “It’s a really bold plan and if this comes off it should alleviate a lot of the problems we had last year.”

The Press understands Fife has the highest figures in Scotland of people stuck in hospital as they await social services assessment and placement.

The new dedicated six-strong discharge team will focus on frail patients with complex support needs and aim to see them discharged within 48 hours of being deemed clinically fit to leave.

NHS Fife’s new director of acute services, Heather Knox also revealed a £400k Change fund package had secured intermediate care beds in the community for those who were not able to return home.

Two Council-run and two private nursing homes will make beds available, with a third private provider expected to “come on board” soon.

An additional 28 acute beds will also be in place from next month until February to deal with additional surge capacity over winter.

She also revealed that NHS Fife was fast-tracking its recruitment process to plug significant gaps in staffing.

So far, the response to nursing vacancies had been “very positive” and a phasedintroduction of new staff is planned.

However, management were “struggling more” to recruit medical staff.

Currently, Fife NHS is short of four radiologists, two anaesthetists, almost three A&E consultants, one paediatrician and one neurologist.

However, bosses aim to meet demand by changing shift patterns or hiring locums.

Speaking afterwards, chairman Dave Stewart added: “It’s good news.

“We have spent the summer identifying what needed to be done to improve the situation

“If the question is: will this winter be better than last year? Definitely yes.

He concluded: “It has to be better than last year.”