CONCERNS have been raised about whether Borders General Hospital (BGH) remains “fit for purpose”.

The matter was discussed at a meeting of Galashiels Community Council on Wednesday (February 2).

Chairwoman Judith Cleghorn said everyone is aware of the pressure on the NHS but that there had been stories of people struggling to get medical care when needed.

She told the meeting: “We give huge thanks to those who work in the NHS and we realise just how much we owe. The BGH was opened in 1988, 34 years ago, but times have changed.

“Between 1998-2020 the population increased by 8.7 per cent, house building continues and although there have been some additions to the hospital over the years, I wonder whether the BGH is still fit for purpose and still able to adequately serve the people of the Borders.”

She asked elected members to look at the matter.

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However, community councillor John Birnie said the issue goes beyond the local authority.

“The people that are there are doing a fantastic job but there’s a shortage,” he said. “The influx of people is maybe causing more problems – they haven’t got enough beds, they haven’t got enough people to carry out the operations.

“I think this goes a lot higher than us and it goes a lot higher than councillors.

“I think this actually has to go back to Holyrood for investment to come down to bring the hospital up to a standard where we can all be treated and don’t have to go out of the area to get treated.

“If it carries on it will become unfit for purpose.”

The meeting heard how one man was told he would need to wait four to six weeks for an ultrasound scan – but seven months down the line he still has not heard anything.

Community councillor Bill White said that he had some concerns over the communication at the hospital.

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“The BGH has been a fantastic hospital,” he said. “One of my concerns is communication, if you get through the door you get 100 per cent fantastic treatment [but] there’s no communication going on.

“I do think with the increased population coming to the Borders that it needs to expand a bit.”

Addressing concerns over treatment times, Ralph Roberts, NHS Borders chief executive, said: “Providing our patients with high quality, person-centred care is our priority. As part of this we continue to review and revise our plans to adapt to the changing nature of healthcare, our workforce and the local population. We are committed to progressing this work however it will take time to further develop and then put into place following the pandemic.

“As aspects of daily life return to some normality it is important to recognise that the challenges and risks from COVID-19 are still here, these challenges are particularly felt across the health and social care system.

“Over the last two years we have had to make difficult decisions in order to keep our staff and patients safe and provide urgent and emergency lifesaving care to those who needed us most. This has resulted in significant backlogs of planned surgical procedures and we have been open and honest with our patients and the general public that these backlogs will take a long time to clear.

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“We have written to our patients who are waiting to give them an update about their appointment or procedure along with advice as to what they can do if they need urgent help. We recognise that these backlogs mean that patients are waiting longer than they – and we – would wish for them to receive treatment.

“We really are sorry about this, especially when everyday life is being affected. However I can assure you that a robust process of clinical prioritisation is followed to ensure that those who need clinical care most urgently are treated first.

“Our staff have been under exceptional pressure for two years now and continue to face significant challenges.

“They are also frustrated that we cannot treat everyone as quickly as we would like to, but despite this, continue to deliver compassionate high quality care to their patients. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them again for their continued hard work and dedication.”