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Concerns over ‘downgrading’ of Perth Royal Infirmary after FOI reveals drop in bed availability

Perth Royal Infirmary.
Perth Royal Infirmary.

Concerns have been raised over a claimed “downgrading” of Perth Royal Infirmary (PRI) after figures revealed the average number of available beds at the hospital fell by almost 2,000 in three years.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed the average bed availability over the course of a year fell from 21,098 in 2017 to 19,333 by September of last year.

This is a decrease of 1,765.

‘Worrying disclosure’

Following the revelation, Murdo Fraser MSP expressed concerns that NHS Tayside would downgrade PRI and wanted assurances that this would not be the case.

The Mid Scotland and Fife Conservative representative said: “This is a worrying disclosure.

“PRI is a hugely important facility for the local community and this notable decrease in beds is alarming.

“The ability to have two hospitals in PRI and Ninewells in Dundee is beneficial to the residents living in Tayside.

“However, with beds being lost every year at PRI, its ability to treat patients is being hampered with patients potentially being shifted to Ninewells which is less convenient for rural residents.

“These latest statistics give fuel to the overriding worry that many services at PRI are being downgraded.

“We need assurances from NHS Tayside that there will be no downgrading of PRI in the future.”

Elective care centre

It comes after NHS Tayside revealed plans for a new multi-million pound elective care centre at PRI, which the health board says will be a “centre of excellence for planned surgery in Tayside”.

If plans are approved, the health centre hopes it will open by the end of 2024, with building work set to begin late next year.

Chief executive Grant Archibald said: “The planned elective care centre would allow us to carry out hundreds of additional routine operations every year and make PRI a centre of excellence for planned surgery.

“The development of the Tayside centre would see a significant investment at Perth Royal Infirmary, underlining NHS Tayside’s commitment to providing first-class healthcare from the PRI site for the future.

“PRI has the potential to be a recognised centre of excellence and all the teams in the hospital are looking forward to developing the plans further.”

Multi-organisational approach

Consultant anaesthetist and clinical director for the Tayside elective care centre, Dr Michael Forster, added: “This is such an exciting development because it has the ability to transform the ways in which our patients receive elective care.

“The model is being developed by clinicians and other healthcare professionals, patients and members of the public.”

In response to the FOI, an  NHS Tayside spokesperson said, “The public should be reassured that Perth Royal Infirmary (PRI) is firmly established as a key part of our acute services plan and has a vital role to play in the future delivery of healthcare services in Tayside.

“This can be evidenced with our very recent announcement that plans for a new multi-million pound state-of-the-art elective care centre to be built at PRI are gathering pace.

“This specialist facility will be a centre of excellence for planned surgery for the whole of Tayside and sees a significant investment at PRI, underlining NHS Tayside’s commitment to providing first-class healthcare from the PRI site for the future.

“Over the last 15 years, NHS Tayside has made significant investment to the PRI site to provide essential services for people in Perth & Kinross and from wider Tayside.  Additions to the site include the Community Maternity Unit, the renal dialysis unit, the haematology and oncology units, the nuclear medicine department, the endoscopy unit and the centre for arthroplasty. The new Urology Treatment Centre also opened at PRI in 2019, seeing patients from across Tayside.

“Our clinical teams have been at the forefront of developing clinical services based on the best clinical evidence to deliver high-quality, safe and effective patient care. This evidence points to a significant shift to services away from hospital to provision in the community and people’s own homes, meaning that fewer inpatient beds are required.”  

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