At a meeting on Tuesday, February 3, Benbecula Community Council discussed the decision announced by NHS Western Isles on 1st December 2014 to reduce the bed capacity at UIst & Barra Hospital, and to consult on a proposal to relocate three existing dental practices at Lochboisdale, Lionacleit and Lochmaddy to the hospital in Balivanich.
The Hospital has proposed decreasing the number of beds from 29 to 16.
A letter from Gail Robertson, Chair, Benbecula Community Council, said that the council are also concerned and surprised that WINHS Board have chosen to proceed to implement this decision to reduce hospital bed numbers without any consultation whatsoever with the communities affected by this decision: it is presented as a fait accompli as though the views of local constituents, and existing/prospective patients, are unimportant.
Ms Robertson continued: “Councillors discussed the wider ramifications of this decision, and anecdotal evidence was heard about the negative impact, and high costs, associated with patients, some quite elderly, and children with parent, having to travel long distances for fairly minor procedures.
“Additionally the lack of residential care homes places and community-based health and social care services runs contrary to the Scottish Government agenda of “shifting the balance of care” from hospitals to the community.
“The Community Council also voiced concerns about the lack of funding for a Mental Health Outreach worker post beyond April of this year and the lack of a replacement MacMillan Nurse, after the departure of Lorna Senior on her retirement.”
NHS Western Isles announced the plans in December, in a move to modernise healthcare services in the Uists. The decision to decrease the number of beds considered the average occupancy over a period of years, which came to 15 beds. Plans plans are to have 16 beds available at all times, with the option of 20 beds if they are needed at peak periods.
The hospital has had a reduced need of beds over the past three years, the statistical trend showing the average number of beds in use decreasing from over 17 in January 1012, to less than 14 in September, 2014.
An NHS Western Isles spokesperson said that Uist and Barra Hospital hadn’t had all 29 beds occupied since May 2011.
The hospital staff will not be reduced, and there are plans to provide additional training for current nurses to increase the proportion of senior and advanced posts.
A statement from NHS Western Isles read: “By rightsizing inpatient services to reflect patient need, there will be scope to make best use of staff skills and time, and space within the hospital.”