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Health / Hospital beds to reopen

Lerwick's Gilbert Bain Hospital.

SIX beds which were closed off in Gilbert Bain Hospital’s ward three earlier this year due to a shortage of staff are expected to re-open in April.

NHS Shetland’s director of nursing and acute services Kathleen Carolan said existing staff at the Lerwick hospital will initially be supported by a “small number of agency hours”.

The decision to temporarily reduce the number of open beds from 22 to 16 was taken in January, with staff going away on maternity leave a particular problem.

NHS Shetland now has a number of new nurses set to join the ranks in May and June.

This includes experienced nurses moving to Shetland, newly qualified nurses and some who have undertaken Robert Gordon University’s “return to practice” course.

The health board added that some of the nurses who have been on maternity leave are due to return to work in the spring.

Carolan said: “Now we have a clear plan for recruitment we have agreed that we are able to re-open the six beds we temporarily closed earlier in the year.

“We will support this initially with the continued use of supplementary staffing, using both our own staff and a small number of agency hours.

“We are pleased to confirm that over the last three months, despite the changes in the number of beds available, the staff have continued to provide appropriate emergency care and all planned surgery has taken place. This has occurred despite increased activity and higher than usual numbers of people attending A&E.”

Carolan added that management regularly met with staff to monitor the impact of closing off the six beds.

“We recognise that health services across Scotland are experiencing difficulties in filling vacant posts and we are pleased that using various approaches we have been able to attract nurses to our posts,” she continued.

“I would also like take this opportunity to thank staff again, for all their hard work over the winter months and the flexibility and good will that they have shown during this time to pick up extra hours and come in for shifts at short notice so that we have been able to continue to provide care to the people of Shetland.”