THE care of elderly patients at a Scottish hospital is being closely monitored by the Scottish Government after serious concerns were raised by a watchdog.

Health Secretary Alex Neil told MSPs that some of the issues unearthed by the Mental Welfare Commission (MWC) during a visit to dementia wards at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital were "totally unacceptable".

Mr Neil said: "We are monitoring the situation very closely and we will make absolutely sure that the recommendations in the Mental Welfare Commission report are implemented."

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He faced questions in the main Holyrood chamber about the Royal Edinburgh yesterday after the Herald revealed a patient's family, a patient advocacy service and the MWC had all expressed concerns about the way elderly patients were being looked after.

The report, sent to the chief executive of health board NHS Lothian, found more than half the patients should have been discharged but were waiting for appropriate community care facilities to be arranged.

It raised further concerns that the patients had little to do in the hospital, adding to their distress.

Staff shortages, which meant two patients were still in bed at lunchtime, and the prescription of powerful sedatives to the pensioners were also highlighted by the MWC report.

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian, asked Mr Neil what was being done to ensure the issues were being addressed and why the report, exposed in The Herald, had to be obtained using freedom of information legislation.

Ms Johnstone said: "I feel we still need to see more openness in the reporting of the quality of care in our hospitals.

"The treatment experienced by some has been hidden away and while the Health Secretary appeared confident in the investment being carried out by the NHS, affected families deserve more tangible action to reassure them that lessons have been learned."

Catherine Thompson, who complained to NHS Lothian about the care of her father in the Royal Edinburgh, said: "It was good to hear Mr Neil describe what happened to my father and is happening to other patients at the Royal Edinburgh as totally unacceptable.

"But only a truly transparent inspection regime can ensure things change and stay that way. He needs to explain why he cannot ask the Mental Welfare Commission to publish their reports and Healthcare Improvement Scotland to take responsibility for those wards, or ideally for both to happen."