In a report looking at winter planning (see item 2.6) the health board identifies some of the key challenges it is facing.
In A&E people are waiting longer to be seen and across the system bed availability is being choked off by delayed discharges and norovirus closures. The board is also facing difficulties in terms of social care capacity and there are concerns that severe weather will potentially see operations having to be cancelled to meet demand.
The report warns that the challenges the Board faces are highly likely to persist throughout the winter and that this will have a detrimental impact on patient safety and staff workload.
The winter plan is about managing exceptional circumstances but it is clear from this report that the board is struggling to cope with day-to-day demand. The report once again underlines the lack of capacity in NHS Lothian that I have raised previously with the Scottish Government and once again it will be left to overstretched staff to pick up the pieces.
In last week’s debate on person centred healthcare Labour called for assurances from the Health Minister Alex Neil that the NHS is ready for winter. The Deputy Chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland, Dr Charles Saunders, has described the Scottish Government’s approach as a sticking plaster. The Scottish Government needs to up its game to make sure we get the action that’s needed to get the NHS through this winter.