Health chiefs have told people in Lanark that its mothballed Lockhart Hospital will never reopen in its original form.
At a packed public meeting at Lanark Memorial Hall last week, NHS Lanarkshire bosses repeatedly claimed that there simply aren’t enough doctors to bring back the old Lockhart, so a new role will have to be found for the Whitelees Road building.
The hospital was closed in May for want of a single GP to provide medical cover for its 30 mostly elderly patients.
The NHS team came to Lanark last Tuesday night to hold a public consultation meeting on the trust’s new Achieving Excellence strategy for the county’s healthcare over the coming decade.
It was inevitable, however, that the fate of the Lockhart would be uppermost in the audience’s mind and, realising that, NHS Lanarkshire distributed, before the meeting commenced, a list of its answers to the most often-asked questions about the mothballed hospital.
The NHS team also set aside the last 15 minutes of the meeting to talk exclusively about the Lockhart, though, in the event, that part of the session ended up taking three times as long as planned.
The Achieving Excellence document distributed made it clear that reopening the Lockhart as a full-blown, doctor-led hospital was not part of any future strategy, with one section stating: “The goal is to shift the balance away from treatment in hospital.”
The NHS team said that, in future, most, if not all, hospital treatment would be provided at Wishaw General, Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride and, after a £400m revamp, Monklands Hospital at Airdrie.
Elderly patients of the sort the Lockhart used to treat would be, whenever possible, tended to at home as part of a social healthcare system being set up in conjunction with South Lanarkshire Council.
Many members of the audience indicated that they felt this strategy would be doomed unless properly funded and organised, with all the services involved co-operating fully with each other.
One of the evening’s most poignant moments came when an elderly lady told of how she was looking after a friend with bowel cancer. Because of internal bleeding, she needed a blood transfusion, but an ambulance wasn’t available to take her to Wishaw General for one. She eventually did get to Wishaw General, but only after fainting through blood loss, falling and requiring nine staples to the resulting serious head wound.