Moving patients between wards results in them having to stay in hospital longer and also increases the risk of infections spreading, researchers from the University of Dundee have warned.
Professor Marion McMurdo and Dr Miles Witham examined the impact of boarding where a patient is moved out of the specialist ward where they had been receiving treatment to another ward which treats different conditions.
The researchers, from the university’s school of medicine, claim a reduction in bed numbers combined with an increase in hospital admissions had led to this becoming increasingly common, especially among older patients.
But while they said it was sometimes viewed as a “necessary evil”, it appeared to be a “false economy” that led to patients having to remain in hospital for longer periods and could increase the risk of infections being spread.
Prof McMurdo said: “Boarding is sometimes viewed as a necessary evil at least compared to the alternative of having no bed in which to admit patients from the overflowing acute admissions unit.
“Yet, at a systems level, boarding appears to be a false economy every ward move increases length of stay, thus exacerbating the very problem that boarding attempts to circumvent. Worse still, frequent moves around a hospital are likely to increase the risk of infection transmission.”
Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “In December we adopted a new collaborative work programme between the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) and NHS Scotland that will address the practice known as ‘boarding’.
“This work has already begun and is proving productive. However, there is more to be done and this will involve reviewing the number and speciality type of beds for acute care, ensuring there are enough medical consultants and nurses and having daily reviews of patients by consultants.”