Fearsfor futureof hospital service
Vale of Leven Hospital’s outof-hours unit was shut two Sundays in a row, we can reveal, prompting fears it may be the next service to face the axe.
John Hendry from Bonhill turned up at the GP-led unit with his ill son Jack, 12, to find it was closed at 8.15pm on Sunday, despite the fact it is meant to remain open until 11pm.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board has confirmed to the Lennox Herald that the unit was shut from 3pm.
This followed a seven-hour closure the previous week and has led to fears about the future of the facility.
Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie said she understands that health board officials are looking at ways to scale back the service as they struggle to staff it.
The Labour MSP believes that one of the options is to “permanently withdraw the service five days a week and refer local patients to the RAH in Paisley on Monday-Friday evenings”.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde refused to be drawn on this. A spokeswoman confirmed the service is under review and said the
option of bringing in GPs from other areas to cover the demands is being explored.
Campaigner Jim Moohan of pressure group Hospitalwatch, who has spent the last 13 years battling for assurances over the future of the Vale, said: “I’m convinced that will be the next step.
“I honestly believe the health board and the health secretary should issue an apology to the people ofWest Dunbartonshire and Argyll for the fact that this has happened.
“They have to give a statement of intent that this won’t happen again for the people of the community who financially struggle to get to Paisley.
“It’s absolutely disgraceful.They’re penny pinching to the extent that they’re putting lives in danger. It has to stop. Paisley’s too far away for the needs of the community.”
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde this week confirmed that the out-of-hours service at theVale is under review following a national audit of similar facilities and that the recent closures have been down to staff shortages which continue to be a problem across the entire health board area.
A spokeswoman said: “The out-of-hours service is facing significant challenges in staffing the existing eight centres for Greater Glasgow and Clyde patients.
“There have been occasions when no GP has been available to cover a specific centre.
“In response to this ongoing pressure, which is not unique to Glasgow and Clyde, the GP out-of-hours team have developed initial thoughts on options to address these pressures.
“A full range of options will be developed and considered in a full review of the service to explore how the service might be made more sustainable.
“However, the option that the board’s senior management team is currently working on is to sustain theVale GP out-of-hours service by arranging cross-cover with the integrated care GPs who currently provide emergency care in the hospital.
“This option would address the issue of failing to get enough local GPs to volunteer to work out of hours to sustain the service for patients in this catchment area.”
Bonhill dad John Hendry said he was stunned to attend the service on Friday and find out that it was shut.
He said:“We have used the service before and we have never had any problems.
“Over the weekend Jack developed a really sore throat and a really bad cough. He has recently been ill with a chest infection and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to develop into that again.
“I was thinking we were going to have to go to Paisley and Jack certainly wasn’t looking forward to the trip there and back.
“I stay in Bonhill.The Vale is literally five minutes away. Compared to a half-hour journey to Paisley, there’s a big difference.”
A GP working on another service was able to check Jack over, which saved them having to travel to the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
MSP Jackie Baillie, who support’s the Lennox Herald’s Save Our Services campaign to protect theVale of Leven Hospital, described the situation as“very concerning”.
She said:“It is very difficult to get to Paisley using public transport, particularly on Sundays, and those without cars might think twice about using the service or decide to wait until the local surgery opened on Monday.
“Local families will have to wait longer to see a doctor and illnesses could get worse. Alternatively people may end up at A&E, making waits for treatment even longer.
“The health board and the health secretary talk about looking at ways to make the service sustainable and maintaining access for local people but there is no guarantee about opening hours.”
The Labour politician raised the issue during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, urging Nicola Sturgeon to ensure the out-ofhours service is protected.
The First Minister said: “We will continue to support services at the Vale of Leven and to support theVision for theVale so that the hospital and the excellent and dedicated staff who work there can continue to provide excellent services.”
Health secretary Shona Robison said work is ongoing to establish the“best model”for the provision of out-of-hours services.
She said:“No formal proposals have come forward and if they do we would be expecting the health board to maintain access for local people.”