Action to Reduce Pressure on Local Health and Care Services

A wide range of work is underway to try to reduce pressure on local health and care services across Forth Valley which are facing unprecedented capacity and staffing pressures.

Over the last few weeks, the number of Covid-19 cases has risen across Scotland. This has put significant pressure on local health and care services as they also respond to rising numbers of seriously ill people with complex needs, both in the community and local hospitals.

Cathie Cowan, Chief Executive, NHS Forth Valley, said: “We have and continue to experience unprecedented pressures on our services, however, despite this, our staff continue to show great professionalism, commitment, and compassion for local patients and each other. Likewise, we are also seeing increasing demand for care in our communities along with significant staffing challenges.

“So far, we have managed to maintain the delivery of a wide range of outpatient clinics, diagnostic scans and planned operations however this is being kept under regular review in line with available capacity.

“Both local Health and Social Care Partnerships and our colleagues in primary care are doing everything possible to meet demand and enable prompt transfers of care to support local patients and their families at this very difficult time.”

Like most parts of Scotland, NHS Forth Valley has seen an increase in Emergency Department attendances which are now similar to pre-Covid levels. Many of the patients who attend are also very unwell and require to be admitted to hospital which is putting additional pressure on inpatient capacity.

Local social care and care home services are also facing significant staffing pressures along with increasing demand for home care and support services, particularly for people with complex needs. This means that even when patients are well enough to leave hospital, they can often face delays in returning home or moving to a local care home.

To address these pressures, a new strategic structure has been established led by NHS Forth Valley’s Chief Executive. This brings together senior clinical and service leads from across local health and social care services to provide the clear direction and rapid decision making necessary to support the ongoing delivery of safe and effective care at this very challenging time.

To-date the following decisions and additional investment have been made to:

  • Open more than 50 additional inpatient beds and treatment areas (including additional beds in Forth Valley Royal Hospital, local community hospitals and social care facilities)
  • Recruit more than 100 nurses, including 80 for Forth Valley Royal Hospital, to fill vacancies and invest in a number of new nursing posts
  • Expand Day Surgery to enable more operations to be carried out
  • Establish a 7-day Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) service to support faster patient rehabilitation and discharge
  • Open additional rehabilitation beds at the Bellfield Centre within Stirling Health and Care Village which now also houses a number of specialist rehabilitation services
  • Provide additional medical staff cover in the evening and at weekends
  • Expand the Hospital @ Home team to enable them to support more local people in their own homes
  • Commission additional care home beds to help reduce delays for patients are ready to leave hospital but require to be transferred to a care home for ongoing support (there are currently around 100 patients in local hospitals who are waiting for a care home place or package of care at home)
  • Recruit more than 80 additional Healthcare Support Workers to support local care at home services which are also experiencing severe service pressures due to Covid-19
  • Trial new arrangements which enable GPs and hospital-based clinicians to work collaboratively across Forth Valley to support the delivery of urgent care
  • Increase paid social care placement opportunities for students at Forth Valley College to add to the local social care workforce
  • Support improvements across day medicine, emergency care and discharge coordination services
  • Support people currently waiting for care at home services and provide breaks for informal carers in partnership with local voluntary and community organisations

Annemargaret Black, Chief Officer of the Clackmannanshire and Stirling Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “We have been undertaking extensive work to maximise our available health and social care capacity to help manage increasing demand and respond to a rising number of patients with complex needs across Clackmannanshire and Stirling.

“This includes supporting people to be at home through a multidisciplinary team approach and opening additional rehabilitation beds at the Bellfield Centre within Stirling Health and Care Village, where there is an opportunity to further enhance capacity to support more people.

“This additional capacity will support people to return home and considerable efforts are being made to ensure the needs of those who are well enough to be cared for in the community are met. The ongoing recruitment of social care staff will also help free up vital space within our hospitals to deal with the unprecedented capacity and staffing pressures faced by local health and care services due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Patricia Cassidy, Chief Officer of the Falkirk Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “The impact of the pandemic continues to be felt in our local communities, where carers, family, and friends are working tirelessly, alongside local health and social care staff, to care for loved ones.

“Similar challenges are being faced across the country and we are extremely appreciative of the understanding, patience, and kindness displayed by local people using our services during this very challenging time.”