NHS Forth Valley Takes Action to Prepare for Winter and Increase Future Capacity

NHS Forth Valley is increasing capacity and investing in additional staff to help reduce pressure on local health services as part of wider preparations for winter.

The plans, which have been developed in collaboration with local staff and partners, were outlined by NHS Forth Valley’s Chief Executive, Cathie Cowan, at a meeting of the NHS Forth Valley Board.

They include significant investment in a range of community and hospital-based services to help respond to increased demand over the busy winter period as well as deliver more sustainable efficient and cost-effective services in the medium and longer term.

Key actions:

  • Investing in additional clinical and support staff and filling existing vacancies with permanent appointments, wherever possible, to reduce the use of bank and agency staff, provide greater stability and support staff retention. This includes: –
    • the recruitment of more than 150 newly qualified staff nurses and midwives working across acute, community, mental health, prison and learning disability services.
    • significant additional investment in permanent posts within the Emergency Department, Acute Assessment Units and Mental Health inpatient wards to strengthen senior leadership and decision-making on 24/7 basis.
  • Increasing the capacity of the Hospital at Home team to enable the team to support up to 30 people in their own homes.
  • Increasing bed and community capacity to address the high number of patients currently experiencing delays in their transfer or discharge from local hospitals and avoid the need to use ward treatment rooms and four bedded bay areas for additional temporary beds.
  • Piloting new triage and assessment arrangements in the Emergency Department to help reduce waiting times and improve access to healthcare advice, reassurance, and treatment at an early stage.
  • Increasing the number of hospital discharges taking place before midday and at weekends to support flow, free up beds, and provide more consistent capacity throughout the week.
  • Making designated contingency beds available on the Forth Valley Royal Hospital site to respond to surges in demand during the winter period.
  • Reviewing the use of Ward A11 at Forth Valley Royal Hospital to inform the development of additional specialist rehabilitation and short-term intermediate care services led by experienced nurses and AHPs.

In the medium to longer term (3 – 12 months) NHS Forth Valley will also:

  • Open a new National Treatment Centre ward at Forth Valley Royal Hospital to provide additional beds for patients requiring joint replacements, building on the increased diagnostic and theatre capacity already in place to support this national development.
  • Further expand the Hospital at Home service with the aim of doubling the original service capacity from 25 to 50 patients over 2023.
  • Develop a Business Case to support additional acute capacity on the Forth Valley Royal Hospital site.
  • Take forward work to redesign the existing Acute Assessment Unit at Forth Valley Royal Hospital to establish a new ED Observation Unit.
  • Explore options for future developments and improvements on the Bellsdyke site.
  • Progress work to regrade up to 830 Band 2 Health Care Support Workers to Band 3 Clinical Support Workers and create additional Advanced Practice roles for nursing and AHP staff as part of ongoing work to increase capacity, reduce waiting times and increase the skills employment opportunities for local staff.

In addition, both local Health and Social Care Partnerships are taking forward a range of plans to increase capacity in community-based health and social care services including securing additional care home beds and investing in additional care at home services.

This includes the development of three new Rapid Response Teams in Clackmannanshire and Stirling as well as a new team to support people living in rural Stirlingshire. In Falkirk, there has been investment to increase local care at home services, care home and community hospital beds, rehabilitation support as well as the development of a range of services to support hospital discharges. Both Integration Joint Boards have also committed to investing in additional social care bed and community capacity through purchasing and reprovisioning of care home beds, increasing social care beds and funding additional care at home services.

Cathie Cowan, Chief Executive, NHS Forth Valley, who thanked staff and colleagues working in primary care, community and hospital services across Forth Valley for their tremendous efforts to date, said: “These actions build on the Board’s significant investment over the last year to develop and improve a wide range of services, including services to support people at home and reduce waiting times for outpatient appointments and operations.

“Collectively, these plans will not only help us prepare for the busy winter period but will also ensure we are better equipped to deal with increasing demand for local health services in the future.”