At the end of last week, the Scottish Government published a report looking at the state of NHS Scotland’s assets and facilities.
The report detailed the significant backlog of maintenance work required in NHS Lothian to bring facilities up to scratch.
Overall, it is estimated that over £94m of work is required to clear the backlog with the Western General and Royal Edinburgh Hospital accounting for almost £70m of that figure.
Meanwhile we are still at least three years away from replacing the Victorian facilities at the Sick Kids which was first declared not fit for purpose in 2003.
An interesting case is that of the old Royal Victoria Hospital which initially closed its doors in August 2012. Four months later the hospital was reopened as a short term measure. By the time that the new Royal Victoria Building, developed as a replacement for the old hospital, opened in February last year, the health board was considering keeping the hospital open on a longer term basis.
In a report presented to the health board earlier this month, it was confirmed that the hospital would remain open for the medium to long term – a remarkable turnaround for a hospital that only 18 months ago was deemed surplus to requirements, not fit for purpose and set for sale. Looking at the report (see agenda item 2.7) you could be forgiven for thinking it describes a new site but the latest Scottish Government report shows that the entire hospital is in poor physical condition.
The indecision surrounding the Royal Victoria goes to the heart of capacity issues at NHS Lothian. Since its revival, the hospital has been used to relieve bed blocking – where a patient who is medically ready for discharge remains in hospital due to a lack of availability for post-hospital care. The proposals being put forward for the Royal Victoria specifically require an end to this practice and, given the shortage of care home places in Edinburgh, we need to see plans for new council care homes if the health board’s plans are to work
This is the reality that NHS Lothian is confronted with – stretched facilities and a huge maintenance backlog of significant and high risk work affecting clinical areas. This report must act as a wake-up call to the board and the Scottish Government to address the problems in our NHS estate.