Improvements being made for patient care at Falkirk Community Hospital

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Concerns about Falkirk Community Hospital led health managers to create an “oversight group” to keep an eye on things.

The top managers have been watching carefully as changes have been made to improve patients’ experience in the ageing facility.

However, a recent unannounced inspection of the hospital found good standards of cleanliness and infection control.

Deputy nurse director Ellen Hudson reported the update to the Falkirk IJB Clinical and Care Governance Committee, saying there were “a number of factors that appeared to be impacting the provision of safe, quality care” across the hospital’s four units.

The changes include developing family information packs which are given during the relatives’ first visit to the ward, while patient communication boards have also been redesigned in units one, two and three.

There are now weekly patient experience meetings to engage with patients and their families, including coffee and cake days, with plans to hold events such as movie nights.

Relatives are also being encouraged to discuss with the staff what visiting times suit them best, putting the patients’ wellbeing at the heart of the decision.

She told them that work has also been ongoing to improve the experience for staff working in the community hospital – ensuring new staff are made welcome and given the  development opportunities as other nurses in Forth Valley.

Positives included there had been no hospital acquired infections since 2014 in units three and four.

The report also noted: “Care assurance visits consistently found that the care and comfort of patients was evident.”

Members of the committee welcomed the report but said it was vital to look at how the facility facilitated ‘re-ablement’ so that patients were able to recover and get back to their own homes wherever possible as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, a Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) report found that wards were tidy and well organised and that staff had a clear understanding of their roles.

The inspectors praised staff for the “positive and visible relationships” between ward staff and the infection prevention and control team, with good audit processes.

Falkirk Community Hospital set a precedent during its last inspection in 2014 when it became the first hospital in Scotland where inspectors could not find a single recommendation for improvement.

Forth Valley’s NHS executive nurse director, Professor Angela Wallace, told members of the Integrated Joint Board Clinical and Care Governance Committee that she was disappointed two minor recommendations had stopped it getting another clean bill of health.

One was that the strength of the cleaning solution they were using should be improved – a change that had been recommended nationally and was already being rolled out across Forth Valley but had not reached Falkirk in time for the inspection.

The change has since been made and the hospital complies with national standards.

The other was a slight problem with mattresses which were being cleaned thoroughly but small gap in the zip of the protective cover was allowing “tiny specks of water” to get in.

Again, this has been changed in line with Forth Valley’s policy.

But across all four units, the standard of environmental cleaning was good.

The inspectors spoke to several patients who praised the cleaners and said the wards were “spotless”.

Cleaning staff were also praised for their caring attitude towards patients and their families.

Committee chair Julia Swan said: “It’s an old building and they are much harder to keep clean, so the staff should get credit for keeping it clean.”