Linlithgow hospital to stay closed due to staff shortages
St Michael’s hospital in Linlithgow will remain closed until April as staff shortages show no sign of easing going into the winter months.
Head of health Fiona Wilson told a meeting of the Integrated Joint Board that staffing pressures were being monitored.
The IJB agreed in September to support an extension of the temporary closure of St Michael’s Hospital to the end of November acknowledging that, in view of the continued staffing pressure within the whole system, a definitive decision on the future reopening of the hospital was unlikely before 2022.
IJB members agreed that St Micahel’s should remain closed until March 31 with the service continuing to operate from Tippethill Hospital near Armadale. The West Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership (WLHSCP) has continued to manage the demand for three community pathways; Hospital-based Complex Care, Palliative step-up and community rehabilitation within Baillie ward at Tippethill since August.
The demand for community beds has shown a reducing need with an audit in June showing occupancy by 85 people, compared with the position in September where only 70 beds were being used, a reduction of 18 per cent.
Despite the reduction in use of community beds, there remains a relentless pressure on the whole system to manage urgent unscheduled care, reduce unnecessary hospital attendance and support people to go or stay at home.
Board member Martin Hill suggested that public perception might be that if there was a demand for beds why not open up St Michael’s again. Officers pointed out that more beds needed more staffing, and staffing shortages was the key issue.
Delayed discharges have been rising over the past four months but this due to a lack of care at home supply and care home beds rather than reduced community hospital provision at St Michaels.
In a report to the board Jeanette Whiting, strategic programme manager said: "It should be noted that inability to provide adequate levels of care at home to meet assessed needs both on discharge from hospital and in the community, poses a significant risk to flow through the health and social care system.”
The evolving policy is for people to remain at home for treatment where possible and the HSCP is working with NHS Lothian on a Home First strategy.