A RADICAL redesign of the way hospitals manage patients will free up beds and ensure people are treated in the most appropriate wards, Health Secretary Alex Neil has said.

It was revealed yesterday a new £4.5 million trial is to be launched over three years, with American analysts using learning from airports and supermarkets to more efficiently manage demand.

The project, which will involve staff from the Boston-based Institute of Healthcare Optimisation working with Scottish NHS staff, will begin in Forth Valley within weeks before it is extended to the Glasgow, Tayside and Borders areas.

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Mr Neil said: "I am keen that Scotland can continue to lead the way in pioneering work to improve care for our patients, and this work will help to ensure that health boards are managing their capacity and ensuring that patients are not kept in hospital unnecessarily.

"Improving flow throughout the whole system will help to free up beds and ensure patients can be put in the most appropriate ward for their treatment."

He said it feeds into work to ensure there is "consistent round the clock care to patients across Scotland".

The system, which has been successful in North America and involves complex analysis of data, seeks to iron out peaks and troughs in demand in the hospital system by reorganising doctors' caseloads and using separate teams to manage emergency and scheduled patients.