A COUNCIL is bidding to take control of acute health services at St John’s Hospital in an attempt to slash soaring bed-blocking rates.
Councillor Peter Johnston, SNP group leader in West Lothian, is pushing for facilities such as St John’s rehabilitation ward and A&E department to be integrated into the West Lothian Community Health and Care Partnership (CHCP) – a joint arrangement between the council and NHS Lothian.
The national health body has traditionally run the A&E department and ambulatory care at the Livingston facility. However, bed-blocking rates have rocketed across the Lothians this year, with contingency plans drawn up for more patients to be diverted from Livingston to Edinburgh for out-of-hours care due to a growing lack of beds.
Cllr Johnston said: “Too often what happens now is that we have unplanned emergency admissions of elderly people into the accident and emergency department at St John’s when that’s the last place they should be.
“They’d be much better dealt with in a community setting.
“Under this model, instead of an elderly person spending four hours in accident and emergency and ending up being sent home, that person would not be reaching St John’s because they would be dealt with more appropriately.”
Cllr Johnston has accused the Labour-run council administration in West Lothian of preventing progress on the matter.
The potential merger was mooted in December last year. Community health and social care packages are already run under the partnership, which started in 2005.
Council chief executive Graham Hope has been urged to meet with NHS Lothian representatives as “a matter of urgency”.
Figures released in April showed the number of patients being taken back into Lothian hospitals shortly after being discharged was well above the Scottish average.
Gordon Beurskens, of the Action to Save St John’s Hospital group, backed the proposed move for St John’s, saying: “Returning the hospital to local control is a good thing.
“If they get it right, which we hope they would do, we would welcome further progress towards that model of care.”
Former Wester Hailes GP Dr Ian McKee said he was not convinced the CHCP model would work for acute services, adding: “An awful lot of people who go to accident and emergency need acute hospital care.
“If there are two different outfits running it, I can see a scope for problems.”
Council leader John McGinty said the authority would take the time needed to get the CHCP arrangements right.
NHS Lothian strategic planning director Alex McMahon did not rule out the switch, saying discussions were part of an “ongoing process”.
The Scottish Government has welcomed the “ambitious” plans for St John’s.