Senior NHS bosses have warned that a city hospital is “functioning on the goodwill of staff” as inspectors found significant issues with bed blocking among older patients.
Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) raised concerns about patient flow at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (ERI) ahead of winter, after an unannounced visit to elderly care wards in August.
The report said more than 40 patients were being treated in the wrong specialist ward, while orthopaedic admissions were being cancelled due to dozens of people waiting to be discharged.
The Evening News recently revealed rocketing waiting times for orthopaedic surgery in Lothian after MSPs heard the case of an elderly woman waiting seven months for a hip replacement at the ERI.
The report said: “Senior staff expressed their concerns that the situation may worsen particularly as delayed discharges can become more of a challenge over the winter period.
“Senior management stated that the hospital is currently functioning on the goodwill of staff.”
Union leaders said the problem was widespread across all departments and warned that staffing levels were “close to the edge”.
Tom Waterson, Unison health chair, said: “It is the same story all over the hospital.
“I do have some sympathy with managers because it is to do with social care outside of hospitals, however cutting beds in Liberton Hospital and bringing patients in from East Lothian only adds to pressure.
“Staff come into the caring profession because they care and it’s that good will which means they are now on their last legs.
“Staffing levels are dangerously close to the edge and something has to give.”
NHS staff need support to deal with rising levels of demand for care, warned Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton,
The Edinburgh Western MSP said: “The revelations in this inspection add more concern about the way we care for our elderly.
“Our healthcare professionals are being asked to perform miracles without the adequate support structures in place. It is completely unacceptable.
“We have to get this right, otherwise the quality of life for some of our most vulnerable citizens will suffer.”
Inspectors highlighted examples of good care and communication between staff, and praised medics for treating patients with dignity.
Jacquie Campbell, interim chief officer at NHS Lothian, said: “Our hospital teams are working with our Health and Social Care partners to address delays which some of our patients face in being discharged from hospital, this involves working closely with home care providers and care homes to address the situation.
“This integrated working is an essential part of our winter plan to manage the increased activity we see at this time of year.
“We have worked extremely hard to improve the care older people receive when attending our hospitals and we will continue to build on the good work which has already taken place as we move forward.”