NHS Borders chief executive apologises for backlog in procedures

The chief executive of NHS Borders has issued an apology. Credit: ITV Border

The man in charge of NHS Borders has apologised for a significant backlog in planned surgical procedures - after serious concerns were raised by a community council.

At Galashiels Community Council last week there were claims that Borders General Hospital was 'no longer fit for purpose'.

Concerns over a perceived lack of investment in new equipment and facilities and inability to attract new staff were aired.

Members also shared personal stories of cancelled operations and poor communication with patients.

NHS Borders chief executive Ralph Roberts. Credit: ITV Border

Chief executive Ralph Roberts has responded to those concerns with a statement in which he outlines the challenges of the past two years, apologies for the delay in planned surgical procedures as a result of those challenges and thanks staff for their dedication and service despite the pressures faced.

He said: "Providing our patients with high quality, person-centred care is our priority. As part of this we continue to review and revise our plans to adapt to the changing nature of healthcare and our workforce and the local population. We are committed to progressing this work, however, it will take time to further develop and then put into place following the pandemic.

"As aspects of daily life return to some normality it is important to recognise that the challenges and risks from Covid-19 are still here, these challenges are particularly felt across the health and social care system. Over the last two years we have had to make difficult decisions in order to keep our staff and patients safe and provide urgent and emergency lifesaving care to those who needed us most.

"This has resulted in significant backlogs of planned surgical procedures and we have been open and honest with our patients and the general public that these backlogs will take a long time to clear. We have written to our patients who are waiting to give them an update about their appointment or procedure along with advice as to what they can do if they need urgent help."

Last year the health board brought in military personnel to help on hospital wards and staff spoke to ITV Border about  "unprecedented pressures" being put upon services. Earlier this year there were reports of a "critical staffing situation" at NHS Borders as a result of Covid-19 and other winter illnesses.

Mr Roberts said: "We recognise that these backlogs mean that patients are waiting longer than they - and we - would wish for them to receive treatment. We really are sorry about this, especially when everyday life is being affected. However, I can assure you that a robust process of clinical prioritisation is followed to ensure that those who need clinical care most urgently are treated first.

"Our staff have been under exceptional pressure for two years now and continue to face significant challenges. They are also frustrated that we cannot treat everyone as quickly as we would like to, but despite this, continue to deliver compassionate high quality care to their patients. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them again for their continued hard work and dedication."

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