TEMPORARY closure of beds at two Borders community hospitals cannot be ruled out due to a lack of medical cover, health bosses warned this week.

A review has been launched by the Health and Social Care Partnership after GP cover finished at a small hospital in Kelso and medical contracts ended at the Knoll Hospital in Duns.

NHS Borders doctors and nurse practitioners have so far filled the void, but the temporary agreement is due to run out in August.

There are 92 community hospital beds across four sites in Kelso, Duns, Hawick and Peebles.

Agreements have been in place with nearby GP practices to provide medical cover for patients.

But GPs in Kelso withdrew from the arrangement in April due to an increased workload within their own surgeries.

At the same time contracted medical cover in Duns came to an end.

Scottish Borders Health and Social Care Partnership is reviewing services provided from the four community hospitals to ensure they are fit for the future.

This will consider the changing needs of the population and the way in which health and social care should be provided to best meet these needs.

While medical cover remains stable in Hawick and Hay Lodge community hospitals, long-term arrangements for the provision of medical cover at Kelso and the Knoll have not yet been secured.

At a meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s Health and Social Care Integration Joint Board on Tuesday (May 15), Dr Lynn McCallum, medical director, and Dr Tim Young, associate medical director and GP, stressed the imperative for safe and stable medical cover in community hospitals.

Dr McCallum said; “I accept and understand the concerns of the people who live in Kelso and Duns. Having worked in the Knoll for three months, I recognise the incredible care that is given in community hospitals and the value of being close to home to have your care delivered.

“However, I must be very clear that no patient can be cared for in an environment where there is not medical cover in place.

“We are working extremely hard to manage this risk and stabilise medical cover in Kelso and the Knoll, however, if we cannot do this there may be a requirement for a temporary closure of beds in these community hospitals for patient safety reasons.”

The executive director for nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals, Sarah Horan, added: “I would like to commit my support to Drs McCallum and Young. I want to assure the board that we are working collectively and exploring all avenues to find a safe and practical solution for this issue.

“At this moment in time no decision has been taken to temporarily close beds. If, for patient safety reasons, this is necessary on a temporary basis, associated communications will be issued from the Health and Social Care Partnership.”

The following statement was read out on behalf of Teviot Medical Practice, Mairches Medical Practice, Neidpath Medical Practice, Tweed Medical Practice and St Ronan's Medical Practice stating that “while the current structures for the community hospitals remain in place the GP practices are committed to providing medical cover for the community hospitals".

“At no point have these GP practices considered withdrawing their services from Hawick or Hay Lodge Community Hospital because of workload or for any other reasons. The GPs view the community hospitals as valuable community assets and wish to support the service,” the statement continued.