Q: When is a hospital not a hospital?
A: When it’s run by well-meaning amateurs instead of the National Health Service.
That was the question both posed and answered this week by a Lanark councillor expressing fresh fears for the future of the town’s mothballed Lockhart Hospital.
Just weeks after he presented NHS Lanarkshire and a local MSP with a 2,300-signature petition calling for the Lockhart to be returned to full cottage hospital status, independent councillor Ed Archer claims plans to hand much of the building over to the Healthy Valleys charity group come nowhere near meeting that demand.
As previously reported, its 30, mostly elderly patients at the hospital were moved elsewhere last May after the last local GP willing to provide medical cover left.
The NHS Lanarkshire-South Lanarkshire Council Care Partnership says that the Healthy Valleys takeover would give the hospital a new healthcare role, but Mr Archer said this week that he and many of his constituents reject claims that would constitute a re-opening of the Lockhart.
He stressed that he had nothing against Healthy Valleys, stating: “In fact, strength to their arm – they’ve played a superb part in improving the health of people in our area, but they are no substitute for a professionally trained, full-time hospital staff.
“I have many concerns about a voluntary body operating within a cottage hospital.
“It seems that this is uncharted territory and there is a concern that volunteers are taking on a role that would be better done by paid staff.
“In addition, people who have read the recent Healthy Valleys annual report are worried that within two years, there was a considerable turnover of volunteers.
“Given the complexity of training and other needs for the volunteers, people are somewhat disturbed that volunteers might not necessarily have the appropriate training.”
The Gazette put his concerns to Heathy Valleys for comment but none was forthcoming.
However, Val De Souza, director of the care partnership, said she was confident the Lockhart rebirth plan would work, commenting: “The support of volunteers will enable a community-led approach to be developed that provides a partnership we are excited about building on over the coming months.
“We have lots of examples of voluntary services working alongside traditional health services in providing support to the people of Lanarkshire.”