An announcement that Lanark’s Lockhart Hospital cannot accept any new patients due to a lack of local doctors has led to allegations of a conspiracy to close it altogether.
‘The Lockhart’ holds a special place in many local hearts; having once had a maternity ward, it is where many Lanarkians have spent both their first and their final days.
Some months ago the Gazette reported how the stretched Lanark Doctors practice could no longer provide GP cover for the hopsital.
However, last Wednesday NHS Lanarkshire’s Medocal Director Dr Iain Wallace announced the Lockhart could not take any new admissions, stating: “We are currently working to identify possible solutions to maintain services at Lockhart Hospital. However, in light of the on-going GP recruitment and retention difficulties, it is necessary to establish contingency arrangements to ensure all patients receive safe care appropriate to their needs.
“Clinical assessments will be undertaken to plan alternative care arrangements for existing patients and no new patients will be admitted meantime to mitigate demand.”
This provoked an immediate reponse, the secretary of Lanark Community Council, the Rev Bryan Kerr, writing an open letter to the NHS, copied to local politicians.
He alleges that the Lanark Doctors plus colleagues in Biggar offered to maintain temporary GP cover at the Lockhart until a permanent solution was found only to have that offer refused by NHS Lanarkshire.
Mr Kerr asked ten questions:
“1. When was the decision taken to close the Hospital and enter a period of contingency emergency planning for the patients?
2. What offers of assistance were offered to NHS Lanarkshire to provide temporary GP cover at this time?
3. If offers were made to provide temporary GP cover, why did NHS Lanarkshire not accept these offers to ensure continuity of care within the local Lanark community?
4. What are the plans, and timescales, of NHS Lanarkshire to resolve this issue?
5. What consultation with the community will take place over the long term future of the hospital?
6. When are NHS Lanarkshire seeking to reopen the hospital?
7. Have the, or will the, staff at the Lockhart hospital be redeployed on a temporary basis? For how long? And will this allow them to return when the facility is reopened?
8. What are the arrangements for existing patients (without breaching confidentiality)? What other facilities will patients be transferred to? What is the timescale for these transfers?
9. What are the arrangements for patients who will be in the major hospitals (Wishaw, Monklands and Hairmyres) and would normally be transferred to the Lockhart for rehabilitation and continuing care?
10. What are the initial thoughts of NHS Lanarkshire on the future of the Lockhart? In other words, is there a commitment to reopen or a commitment to move to a permanent closure?”
NHS Lanarkshire’s chief executive Calum Campbell replied by stating that “no formal decision had been taken to close the hospital permanently”.
He confirmed Lanark Doctors had offered temporary cover but this offer had been rejected as unsatisfactory to meet the hospital’s long-term needs.
He is due to attend a meeting of Lanark Community Council tonight (Monday).