RCPE Press Release

11 June 2013

Dr Neil Dewhurst, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE), said,

“The RCPE published a survey last summer which reported that boarding out of patients to non-medical wards was no longer confined to times to severe pressure in winter and had become a year round phenomenon in Scottish hospitals. These latest figures, obtained by The Herald, would appear to confirm that such measures have become a permanent feature in Scottish hospitals as a means of coping with the sustained increase in hospital admissions”. 

“We very much welcome that additional beds opened to reduce pressures last winter would appear to remain open and have increased bed capacity. However, this situation is not in the best interests of patients unless these beds are appropriately supported and patients receive the specialist care they need. In short, we have to ensure that patients are in the right place, receive treatment from the right medical staff and at the right time. The evidence is clear – boarding patients out to non-specialised wards can significantly increase patients’ length of stay and contribute to other complications resulting from delayed assessment and treatment such as developing blood clots and hospital acquired infections.  The Scottish Government has recognised the problems associated with boarding and we are working with them and NHS Scotland to find ways of improving care for patients and reducing the number of ward moves experienced by patients.”



The RCPE has repeatedly highlighted concerns about the impact of reducing acute medical beds and the related adverse effects on patients -

  • In April 2012 the RCPE warned that the Scottish Government’s policy of attempting to shift more care from hospitals into the community was based upon false assumptions and myths regarding the levels of inappropriate admissions in Scottish hospitals
  • In June 2012 the RCPE published a survey which showed that the boarding out of patients to other hospital wards, due to bed shortages, had become a year-round phenomenon in Scottish hospitals and was resulting in reduced quality of care for patients
  • In December 2012 the Scottish Government and RCPE announced a new joint action plan to tackle boarding in Scottish hospitals in response to RCPE concerns
  • In February 2013 the RCPE published a response to the Mid Staffordshire Inquiry which highlighted the ongoing problems in Scottish hospitals and warned that the contributing circumstances have the potential for these events to occur in any hospital in Scotland or the UK
  • In March 2013, and following reports of 124% bed occupancy in Fife and 101% in Lothian, the RCPE highlighted that the boarding out of medical patients to other wards due to bed shortages, is becoming one of the main causes of the spread of norovirus in hospitals

In April 2013 the RCPE urged the Cabinet Secretary to confirm as policy his reported remarks, made during a conference speech, which suggested the Scottish Government had recognised bed numbers could not be cut any further.