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Inspectors to get powers to close hospital wards

Published: 14 Feb 2016 00:01

Proposed change to law will improve patient safety

Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) are due to be given the powers from 1 April to close hospital wards to new admissions, if there are serious concerns about patient safety.

The Scottish Government has now laid regulations in the Scottish Parliament which would allow HIS inspectors to close wards to new admissions, as a last resort to protect patients.

If approved by Parliament, the secondary legislation will take forward a key recommendation from the Vale of Leven Hospital Inquiry, which was published by Lord MacLean at the end of 2014.

They are due to take affect from 1 April 2016.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "Scotland has one of the safest healthcare systems in the world, with record low infection rates and an internationally recognised patient safety programme.

"We already have a very robust scrutiny and inspection regime – with nearly 100 inspections carried out each year by Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

"However, protecting patient safety is of critical importance and that is why we want to go further and give HIS the powers to close hospital wards if they consider it necessary.

"Let me be clear that this would only ever be used as a last resort and in the majority of cases we would expect HIS to work with health boards to put in place improvements on wards first.

"But on the very rare occasions that inspectors have concerns about the safety of patients on a ward, they should have the powers to take firm and direct action. This will not just be for reasons of cleanliness, but also for other safety reasons such as staffing levels.

"The proposed changes to the legislation will strengthen the scrutiny in our hospitals and give patients the confidence and trust in the fact that their care will continue to be among the safest in the world."

The Scottish Government published its formal response to the Vale of Leven inquiry report in July 2015. It confirmed it will take on board all 75 recommendations from the report, and said it will go beyond some recommendations in order to make hospitals as safe as possible.

Improvements have already been put in place including developing a five-year plan to promote better antibiotic prescribing, which is being carried out by Scotland's Chief Medical Officer as part of the overall UK policy, and engagement between Scotland's Chief Nursing Officer and executive nurse directors to make assure high quality patient care is provided in an open and transparent way.

The Government has also established an implementation group and a reference group to implement and oversee the work to take the recommendations from Lord MacLean's report forward.

Notes to editors

The full Scottish Government response is available here:

The powers to allow Healthcare Improvement Scotland to close wards to new admissions are contained in a Scottish Statutory Instrument (SSI) which was laid in Parliament on 2 February 2016 to amend Section 10D of the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978.