A petition signed by more than 1,000 people in Clydesdale has been handed to Scottish Government Health Minister Shona Robison, calling on her to intervene to save Lanark’s Lockhart Hospital.
The signatures were delivered to her along with a letter setting out the case of those fighting to reopen the hospital, mothballed in May due to lack of GP cover.
Since then, its 30 patients, most of them elderly, and its staff have been scattered throughout other NHS Lanarkshire establishments.
A public meeting held in Lanark last month was told by NHS bosses that their vision for the future was to run fewer hospitals like the Lockhart and provide more home care for the elderly in co-operation with South Lanarkshire Council’s social services department.
In the letter accompanying the petition, one of the campaign leaders, Lanark councillor Ed Archer says: “The Lockhart Hospital has provided a vital lifeline to the community in terms of community care, a type of care that cannot be replaced by the so-called homely care package, a package that has already been found wanting in terms of lack of carers to provide it.
“Indeed, the problem with carers is going to get much worse as local authorities are facing a grave financial crisis.”
He goes on to claim that the Lockhart Hospital’s mothballing is having a knock-on effect elsewhere, with Biggar’s Kello and Douglas’s Lady Home hospitals being put under extra pressure. He further alleges that even Wishaw General is being impacted on, claiming that one Lanarkian constituent of his had a colonoscopy scheduled there cancelled due to bed-blocking, partly by Lockhart refugees.
He adds that he feels that no matter how good the home care provided, there will always be a need for hospitals like the Lockhart.
He says that the number of signatories to the petition and the turnout at the two public meetings held in Lanark on the issue is proof that the hospital was highly valued.
Ms Robison responded: “We are fully aware of the strength of local feeling in support of Lockhart Hospital, and NHS Lanarkshire has assured me it is working on possible solutions to provide services from the facility.
“However, patient safety is always of paramount importance, and it is right that the health board has taken the necessary steps to protect patients while it considers long-term options.”