A NUMBER of "serious concerns" were raised by inspectors at Forth Valley Royal Hospital over locked doors and additional beds during an April visit.

Healthcare Improvement Scotland last week published a report on the unannounced inspection of the hospital, which took place during April 5-7 with a follow up a few weeks later.

The hospital was experiencing "sustained service pressures" due to Covid-19 at the time but despite the conditions, inspectors found "many good interactions between staff and patients and observed examples of good team work and communication".

However, a number of serious concerns had to be raised with NHS Forth Valley.

Donna Maclean, head of service at Healthcare Improvement Scotland, said: "Some of these concerns included ward doors within the hospital being locked, without the process within the board's own locked door policy being followed."

The report revealed how inspectors observed a patient attempting to leave a ward, the door to the exit having been locked electronically at the request of staff to prevent them from leaving unassisted.

Inspectors explained this also prevented any others from leaving without assistance and there was no information or signage.

Importantly, the report said managers were not aware that the ward initiated the policy and there was no evidence of care plans and risk assessments for relevant patients.

It added: "Therefore, it was unclear how these decisions had been made and if the decisions acted in the best interest and least restrictive option for the patients."

The situation was immediately reviewed.

On the issue of additional beds, the report explained four-bedded bays had been increased to accommodate five and that while staff worked hard to deliver care "the additional patients made it difficult for staff to meet all patient care needs".

Donna Maclean said: "The additional beds and non-standard care areas raised a number of concerns such as: lack of accessibility for cleaning, patient placement, access in an emergency, and patient privacy and patient dignity.

"Some staff we spoke with shared their concerns and feelings of being overwhelmed, particularly in relation to the additional beds and workload and they expressed feelings of frustration at staffing levels."

Cathie Cowan, chief executive at NHS Forth Valley, explained the inspection took place during a period of unprecedented demand and high levels of staff absences.

She said: "Like, hospitals across the country, we had to open extra beds to create additional capacity while managing significant staff shortages.

"We recognise that the use of contingency areas is not ideal; however, local staff across the hospital continued to deliver high standards of clinical care and treatment in very challenging circumstances.

"The inspectors also highlighted the positive and caring interactions they saw between staff and patients, good team working and efforts to ensure additional staff were distributed to areas with the greatest needs.

"The majority of the report recommendations have already been addressed, in many cases on the same day of the visit, and we will ensure all are fully implemented."