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Perth ‘hospital at home’ service axed as health bosses seek £9M savings

The loss of the hospital at home scheme will help to save £5.5M across Perth and Kinross

Perth Royal Infirmary entrance sign.
Nurses at Perth Royal Infirmary are said to be living in fear. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson

A pioneering Perth ‘hospital at home’ team is being scrapped amid rising costs and dwindling budgets.

The service was only recently set up as a pilot scheme.

The aim was to provide short-term, specialised care to elderly patients in their own homes, thus preventing the need for admission to an acute hospital.

However, health and social care bosses voted to axe it on Wednesday after hearing it was “not sustainable in the current financial context”.

The Perth and Kinross integration joint board (IJB) was told it would need to make savings of 5%, or just under £9 million, in order to balance the books.

Members voted through a series of measures intended to save £5.5M in the coming year.

They were also asked to approve the transfer of £2.3M from the board’s reserves to help bridge the funding gap.

Perth Royal Infirmary entrance sign
The aim was to reduce hospital admissions at sites such as Perth Royal Infirmary. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

Chief finance officer Donna Mitchell said funding for health and social care was not keeping pace with demand.

“The financial challenges facing the public sector, and therefore the IJB, have made this one of the most difficult budgets that we have had to prepare,” she said.

Perth hospital at home service not the only casualty

Staff in the hospital at home service were informed of the proposal on Tuesday.

It was set up as a pilot scheme in line with Scottish Government policy.

Holyrood made £3.6M available in 2022 to support the expansion of hospital at home services.

The meeting was told the Perth scheme was set up to cater for up to 10 “virtual beds” at any one time.

However, during the pilot it dealt with a maximum of five, averaging two to three each day.

And a report to the board said the absence of recurring Scottish Government funding meant it was “not cost-effective at this time”.

Carer holding hand of elderly patient
The Scottish Government said the aim was to reduce hospital admissions for elderly patients by providing treatments in the comfort and familiarity of their own home.

The medical team will be redeployed in Perth.

However, the package approved on Wednesday could impact up to 35 jobs across a range of services.

It includes a review and re-design of day care/opportunities for older people.

This will include services provided by Perth and Kinross Council at the New Rannoch Day Centre in Perth and Strathmore Day Opportunities in Blairgowrie.

A 5% reduction in prescribing costs is also proposed.

The IJB was told: “A range of options will be used to minimise the impact on employees, including the non-filling of vacancies, the use of natural attrition and redeployment of staff where appropriate.”

Council and health board funding

The Perth and Kinross integration joint board oversees the provision of health and social care services with funding from Perth and Kinross Council and NHS Tayside.

It was allocated just over £83 million when Perth and Kinross Council set its budget at the end of February.

The council is also passing on an additional £7.5M from the Scottish Government towards the cost of adult social care and free personal care.

NHS Tayside has yet to set its budget. But based on 2023/24 funds, the IJB expects a share of £157.7M with an additional allocation of just over £10M via the Scottish Government.

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