Orkney MSP Liam McArthur today pressed the Cabinet Secretary for Health on the need for improved bed provision at the new Balfour Hospital.

Speaking during General Questions today, Mr McArthur asked the Scottish Government “what assessment it has carried out of the number of beds needed in the proposed new Balfour hospital in Orkney.” In response, the Cabinet Secretary for Health said it was for NHS Orkney to “develop and implement clinical strategies” that will determine the need for beds, but that the Scottish Government will consider a final business case for the new hospital later this year.

Mr McArthur’s questions followed recent discussions with local councillors and detailed work carried out by a constituent, Dr Ian Cunningham into projections of how many beds are likely to be needed in the new Balfour hospital over coming decades.

Dr Ian Cunningham highlighted that the Outline Business Case, submitted by NHS Orkney in 2013, quoted a potential requirement of 56 beds against a planned provision of 47 inpatient and 2 assessment beds.

Calculations carried out by Dr Cunningham on the basis of the figures available from Information Services Division and obtained under Freedom of Information, suggest that the new hospital could be as many as 12 beds short.

Mr McArthur therefore called on the Health Secretary to “look again at the assumptions that are being made by NHS Orkney to justify the planned bed numbers.”

Commenting after the exchanges, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said:

“The new Balfour Hospital is much needed and many would argue long overdue. At a time of significant change for health and social care provision in our islands, it has the potential to deliver real improvements for patients in Orkney.

“It is vital, however, that the new hospital meets the needs of the local community now and into the future. Concerns have been expressed to me that planned bed numbers may be based on assumptions about patient trends that are unrealistically optimistic.

“I know that NHS Orkney is committed to reducing the average length of stays, providing more care at home, increasing use of technology and the emphasis on preventative care. All these form part of a sensible approach. However, given the demographic trends over coming decades, people in Orkney will want to be reassured that bed numbers in the new hospital are sufficient and based on an accurate assessment of likely future need.

“The Health Secretary confirmed today that the full business case for the new Balfour will be considered by the Scottish Government later this year. She added that bed capacity will be one of the issues that is considered before any approval is given. In the interests of patients and staff in Orkney, I would expect this to be done in a rigorous fashion.”


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