A demonstration took place in Lanark yesterday (Wednesday) to call for a full and early reopening of the town’s Lockhart Hospital.
The protest came against a backdrop of claims that displaced Lockhart staff are being interviewed by NHS Lanarkshire with a view to permanent re-assignment to other sites following the mothballing of the hospital earlier this year due to lack of a doctor to provide medical cover.
Lanark independent councillor Ed Archer told the Gazette earlier this week: “These interviews just show that NHS Lanarkshire has no intention of reopening the hospital in its former role as a full geriatric hospital, something that families in this area really need.
“NHS Lanarkshire has admitted itself that it is having to find £43m in savings in the coming year, and closing the Lockhart Hospital would go towards meeting that target.”
He further claimed that now even the few outpatient services being provided from the hospital have been withdrawn.
His claims were met with a straight denial by NHS Lanarkshire, and it insists it is still committed to the hospital’s eventual reopening.
Said Craig Cunningham, head of commissioning and performance for South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership: “We are disappointed that misleading rumours are circulating about the use of Lockhart Hospital, and we are happy to correct these.
“We can provide assurance that the Lockhart Hospital building remains in use and is still seen as part of the future service delivery in Clydesdale.
“Specifically, occupational therapy and physiotherapy staff are continuing to use Lockhart as a base during the day.
“We are also continuing to see a number of outpatients for rehabilitation in the physiotherapy department.
“We also have staff going in and out of the building to access storage held at the hospital.
“In addition, the integrated community support team, for both nursing and home care, use the hospital as a base overnight.
“We can reassure people that we are continuing to work towards the development of an alternative sustainable model for Lockhart Hospital.
“We said at the outset that this would take some time, but we are making progress, and we have recently recruited an additional senior nurse for Clydesdale to support this work.
“The services in Clydesdale group, which includes community council and public partnership forum representatives, is due to meet again in November.”
At a recent public meeting at Lanark’s memorial hall to discuss the hospital’s future, one option suggested by NHS Lanarkshire was for its re-opening as a nurse-practioner hospital with no full-time doctor assigned to it.
The health authority warned that it could be as late as next summer before a final reopening plan is in place.