We're launching a campaign asking if Scottish hospitals have enough beds and staff to cope with the rising number of elderly patients.

We're campaigning for a review of hospital and community capacity to ensure the right people are in the right place at the right time to provide safe and dignified care.

Some of the questions we'll be examining are:

- Do we have enough staff and beds to handle a surge in illness at present and a rising elderly population into the future?

- Do we have the correct number of trained staff, in the right place, a the right time, to provide safe and dignified care?

- Which resources are needed in the community, and how do we pay for them, to keep patients - including the frail and elderly - out of hospital?

Here are our first stories:

Revealed: ministers were warned that A&E departments were not safe months before the winter hospital crisis hit

Case study - 'I had a chest spasm in A&E and buzzed alarm but nobody came'

Why the Herald believes a review of NHS beds is urgently needed

July 15 update by Helen Puttick:

Thanks to all those who have commented so far. I know how hard people work to ensure patients are well cared for, whatever the circumstances, and it's been heartening to hear so many positive experiences from patients and their families.

Having said that, the figures also show that hundreds of patients had to wait for 12 hours or more in A&E departments over the recent winter. This, the College of Emergency Medicine says, is not good for them or the new patients arriving needing urgent treatment.

We hope our series will prompt a truly national debate on what everyone agrees is a vital service.

After launching our campaign and confirming that ministers were warned about the problems facing Scotland's A&E department, we can now reveal that:

Hospitals hit by shortage of senior emergency doctors

Opposition parties call for probe into A&E report

July 16 update by Helen Puttick:

It’s not always easy for patients and their families to speak out when they feel let down by the NHS. Some worry, quite naturally, that it might affect their future care if they make a fuss. Others don’t want to be seen to criticise when staff are so busy or the vast majority of their treatment has been so good. Thanks to those who have posted their experiences so far either here or to the health@theherald.co.uk email address. I think the public needs to talk about what they want most from the NHS as it strives to cope with the aging population and that the best organisations genuinely listen to feedback.

Following calls from opposition parties for the Scottish Government to publish a report that warned ministers most A&E departments in the country were regularly unsafe, today we can reveal that:

Thousands of patients have been admitted to the wrong hospital department in Scotland this year because of space shortages - and some have been moved 10 times or more during one stay

July 17 update by Helen Puttick:

More than one consultant has been on the phone to me today, quietly supporting the NHS Time for Action campaign and suggesting issues to examine more closely. This series isn’t about party politics at all. But there is mounting evidence hospitals are under a bit too much pressure and, with the aging population, whoever is in government needs to take that very seriously and plan properly for the future. I imagine everyone who ever needs emergency hospital treatment hopes they will be admitted on a day when the wards aren’t too busy.

After thousands of patients were admitted to the wrong hospital department this year because of a shortage of spaces, we can now reveal that:

Patients were cared for in cupboards, offices and dining areas as space ran out in Scottish hospitals last year.

Case study - Nurse: 'I left upset I was not providing the care I needed to.'

July 18 update by Helen Puttick:

I’m lucky. I’ve only been a patient in hospital twice, on both occasions giving birth to children. Like some of those who have shared their stories this week, my daughters and I generally had good care. There was one night when the service was overstretched though – and it was such a different experience.

I want, while I’m here, to thank the nurses who agreed to talk to me about what it is like to be on the frontline when staffing is short or the number of patients arriving is high. It seems these extremely hectic days have become much more frequent than they used to be, but I would welcome more insight from NHS staff. 

After nurses said that they were upset that they were not able to provide the care that they needed to, we can reveal that:

A leading consultant has warned that hospitals in Scotland are narrowly avoiding crisis most days of the week

A week after launching our campaign, we can reveal that:

Plans for a tough new health service watchdog have been unveiled

The campaign has shone a light on problems and is giving a much-needed voice to those who care about the NHS

July 22 update by Rebecca McQuillan:

We have heard some worrying stories from readers about the current pressures on the NHS over the last week. Some have reported to us having so little faith in NHS complaints procedures that they have not bothered making a formal complaint following a distressing experience.

Would a new, tougher, more independent health service watchdog that patients could contact directly, make a difference? Today we report on a new proposal for such a regulator, from Scottish Labour. It comes in response to growing concerns about the state of the Scottish NHS as highlighted in the NHS Time for Action campaign. What do you think? Let us know online or by email at health@theherald.co.uk.

After plans for a tough new health service watchdog were unveiled, we can reveal that:

Nursing leaders fear that some young children may miss out on important new universal health checks because of staff shortages

July 23 update by Helen Puttick:

Key medical organisations have contributed to The Herald’s debate on capacity issues facing the NHS in recent days. The British Medical Association in Scotland sent a letter to the newspaper late last week. Dr Nikki Thompson, chair-elect of their Scottish Consultants Committee, called for politicians to fix the health service, saying it was “close to breaking point”.

Now the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow has published a statement on their website too.

Different organisations, of course, have different perspectives but there is a lot of overlap. The sense it is time for action seems to be shared.

Following concerns from nursing leaders that some young children may miss out on important new universal health checks because of staff shortages, we can reveal that:

Concerns have been raised that hospitals have neglected the rights of some of Scotland's most vulnerable patients

July 25 update by Helen Puttick:

Two different bodies have painted worrying pictures of the way older people are sometimes cared for in Scottish hospitals. The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman published his responses to a series of complaints about how vulnerable people, including dementia sufferers, were cared for. He found patients were not assessed properly, relatives and carers were not involved in important decisions and the rights of patients were sometimes neglected. A day later, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, published a summary of what they found when inspecting hospital wards that care for the elderly. Some of the same criticisms appear  - and there are others too – such as patients not being assisted to eat their food.

Neither report, however, asks why these problems are occurring. Why are they finding the same problems repeatedly? Is it cultural? Is it poor organisation? Are staff too busy to cope?

After concerns were raised that hospitals have neglected the rights of some of Scotland's most vulnerable patients, we can now reveal that:

A watchdog has warned that elderly care is still not good enough

Please join in by commenting either on the individual articles above, or in the comment box below to discuss the wider future of the NHS.