A mixture of deep disappointment and even deeper concern has greeted the avidly-awaited update on NHS Lanarkshire’s efforts to re-open Lanark’s Lockhart Hospital.
The much-valued institution was ‘mothballed’ last month after health service bosses claimed they couldn’t find a single doctor to provide medical cover for the 30-bed unit for mainly elderly patients.
Hopes of an early re-opening of ‘The Lockhart’ - whose patients and staff have been re-located to other county hospitals - were dashed with a “progress report” issued by NHS Lanarkshire which said it would be “some months” before any re-opening.
The report stated NHS Lanarkshire was “continuing to explore options that could allow Lockhart Hospital to resume admissions”, adding that three main options were being studied.
The first is The Lockhart becoming a nurse-led hospital with existing staff being ‘trained up’ to take over duties usually carried out by doctors.
The second is somehow restoring GP cover. On this, the statement says: “NHS Lanarkshire is in discussion with general practitioners who have expressed interest in being able to provide a service to Lockhart Hospital in the near future.”
However. the report says approaches to local GPs to take responsbility for their own patients while in the hospital had been knocked back; some blame for the closure was placed in a national shortage of GPs.
The third option would be at least temporarily using the hospital as a base for the care-at-home service for the elderly with rehabilitation of outpatients taking place there.
The NHS says that this would at least restore some activity to the building and deter vandalism.
There was little welcome for the report locally.
Labour’s Lanark-based South of Scotland MSP Claudia Beamish said the failure to give any solid re-opening date was “disappointing,” adding: “It is clear from their update that there is not going to be a quick solution, which is very sad for the community and creates uncertainty for the staff.”
Lanark Labour councillor Catherine McClymont stated: “I hope the Scottish Government will step up to the mark and work cross party to get what our rural area clearly needs. This hospital is a lifeline to our community.”
Independent councillor Ed Archer said he would settle for nothing less than a full restoration of The Lockhart’s inpatient services.