Over 100 campaigners held a rally at the Scottish Parliament this week in an attempt to protect GP out-of-hours services at the Vale of Leven Hospital.
Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie challenged Nicola Sturgeon to reject the ‘weasel words’ of the health board and give an assurance to local patients.
Campaigners armed with ‘Save the Vale’ placards were piped into the Scottish Parliament to hammer home the anti-cuts message to the Scottish Government.
The group, who had travelled from Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and Helensburgh, took their places in the public gallery during First Minister’s Questions.
Jackie Baillie asked Nicola Sturgeon for a direct ‘yes or no’ answer to confirm whether the full GP out-of-hours service would remain in place at the Vale of Leven Hospital.
The local service is under threat from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde proposals to cut opening hours and redirect local patients to the RAH in Paisley due to staff shortages.
Ms Baillie said: “I am delighted that so many people from Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and Helensburgh were able to attend the demonstration in Edinburgh.
“The impressive turnout is yet another sign of how much local people value the provision of GP out-of-hours services.
“I asked Nicola Sturgeon for a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to confirm if the full GP out-of-hours service would stay in place at the Vale of Leven Hospital. All we got from her in response was the same old weasel words used by the health board.
“Local GPs have united to condemn the health board’s plans to cut services as clinically unsafe and patients will not accept any further centralisation of NHS services in Paisley. It’s time for the SNP Government to listen to GPs and patients and pledge to protect out-of-hours in full at the Vale of Leven Hospital.”
Jim Moohan, chair of the Hospitalwatch campaign, said that GP out-of-hours was a basic local service which must not be centralised.
He added: “It was pressed upon the health minister the importance of trust. Trust which has been missing for the last decade. This has led to services being stripped from the Vale of Leven Hospital and patients being left without.
“Local GPs have said that the GP out-of-hours service is the most basic service and it should be kept local.
“Further centralisation will lead to a skeleton service at the Vale of Leven. What the Hospital and the people of Dumbarton, the Vale of Leven and Helensburgh need is capital investment in local infrastructure, supported by services and skills of the doctors and nurses who work at the hospital. And, if possible the full repatriation of services.”
Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament that she welcomed the campaigners in the gallery, and said that after a meeting with the chair and chief executive of NHS Greater Glasgow Mr Moohan said the talks had been constructive.
She added:” I would say again, though, that it was this government that took the action that ended the decade of damaging uncertainty under the previous Labour administration when it approved the ‘Vision for the Vale of Leven Hospital’ document.
“We have been consistently clear that we back the Vale of Leven hospital, and the health board has been consistently clear on that, too.
“To illustrate that backing, let me give a few statistics. Vale of Leven day cases have increased by 7% in the past year, there are more than 300 outpatient clinics every month across 20 or more specialties and emergency attendances have increased at the Vale’s minor injuries unit by nearly 10%.
“Those are the actions that show our commitment to the Vale. Of course, Jackie Baillie was a minister in the previous Administration that closed the Vale of Leven hospital accident and emergency department.”
Jackie Baillie then pointe out via a point of order that she had not been a minister at that time, saying she had informed Shona Robison of this in June and inviting the First Minister to ‘retract a statement that she knows deliberately promotes a falsehood’.