NHS Lothian unveils vision for the future

NHS Lothian has outlined its vision for healthcare in a groundbreaking new plan to span the next decade.

Major new proposals have been drafted to transform the current system to ensure the health board can meet the challenges of the future and continue to deliver safe, person-centred, effective care for years to come.

Primary care, community services and home care will be developed and a greater emphasis will be placed on early intervention and self care under the plans which will be presented to the NHS Lothian board this week (Wednesday 2 April).

The replacement for the Royal Hospital for Sick Children will be built, and the re-development of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital will commence, while community mental health services will be restructured. Dedicated care villages are also proposed, alongside a new community hospital for East Lothian and changes to the way Midlothian Hospital is used to provide care for older people to help prevent unnecessary admissions to hospital.

The dynamic document, which will be finalised this Autumn following   extensive public consultation and engagement, shows how extra capacity will be delivered to meet increasing demand and boost access to services and will prepare NHS Lothian for Health and Social Care integration in 2015.

The strategic plan also details the outcomes if no action was taken over the next 10 years and maps out the impact on services, beds, patient waiting times and finances.

Tim Davison, Chief Executive, NHS Lothian, said the health board must evolve if it is to keep pace with a soaring population, increasing rates of multiple health problems and harsher economic climates as well as grasping the opportunities around integration of health and social care.

He added: “There is an increasing risk that unless we fundamentally change the way we currently work and organise our services, that the quality of patient care will deteriorate and we will fall short of meeting the needs and expectations of the population that we are here to serve.

“The improvements and necessary changes will be delivered through new ways of working with our staff and by working differently with our partners in the four local authorities, the voluntary sector, the independent sector and with patients and carers.”

The paper entitled, “Our Health, Our Care, Our Future”, identifies four main challenges to help lead NHS Lothian into 2024. It points to Lothian's population, and in particular the numbers of older people, which will continue to soar over the next 10 years. 

The plan explains there is a real need to establish integrated working with local authorities and other partners to help streamline services. It also says that the current system of healthcare is now outdated because of shifts in population and the demands on the services, which in turn has an impact on waiting times and nationally set standards.

And it details how the economy has changed significantly in recent years and health boards will have to tighten their belts, re-prioritise and work harder to deliver smarter results.

Every aspect of NHS Lothian has come under the spotlight as part of the wide-ranging exercise, which will support the delivery of the Scottish Government's 2020 vision to promote longer, healthier lives.

Access to primary care and GP services will be improved through the development of additional capacity to meet population growth and new services will provide more care closer to home and reduce demand on hospital services.

Acute care will be reconfigured and services better split over the three main sites of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE), the Western General Hospital (WGH) and St John's Hospital (SJH).

Dedicated multi-speciality day case centres will be developed to increase day surgery capacity on WGH and/or SJH. Outpatient services are also being re-examined.

The Royal Victoria and Liberton Hospitals will be considered as the sites for new “care villages” with different levels of care available on site to prevent inappropriate admissions to hospital.

Mr Davison said: “We have developed our vision for the future and we are confident it will continue to deliver real results for patients across the board, whether in community or hospital care.

“We are proposing some bold steps to transform the way services are currently delivered to ensure they can keep up with modern-day demands and provide safe and effective care.

“This is an exciting time because it has given us the chance to really look at the services we provide and then make them better. It means that we will be prepared for the challenges that lie ahead in the next decade.”

The document can be accessed as part of the papers for the Board meeting on Wenesday. The public consultation for the draft strategic plan will be launched on 21 April 2014. Members of the public will be encouraged to have a say on the future of health services in Lothian. Details of how to get involved will be available on the NHS Lothian website.