Vale of Leven Hospital Out-of-hours Unit

– in the Scottish Parliament on 5th March 2020.

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Photo of Maurice Corry Maurice Corry Conservative

3. To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to secure and develop services at the Vale of Leven hospital, in light of the announcement that its out-of-hours unit is to temporarily close at evenings and weekends. (S5O-04222)

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

As the member will know, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is at level 4 escalation. Part of that involves looking at the sustainability and robustness of the out-of-hours services. That involves the turnaround director, Calum Campbell, and an oversight board that is chaired by NHS Scotland’s chief operating officer.

Given that the nine centres have not been sustainable over the recent period, the intention is to pause, fix four of them and then extend provision out to the nine centres. In the meantime, in West Dunbartonshire, the Vale of Leven’s medical assessment unit remains open 24 hours a day, seven days a week; the minor injuries unit is open from 8 am till 9 pm every day, including weekends; an overnight general practitioner out-of-hours service continues to operate seven nights a week from 11 pm until 8 am; and there is GP home visiting cover for the whole region.

Along with the local campaign group, Vale of Leven hospital watch, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is working with the Vale of Leven’s lead clinician for integrated care and local GPs to improve the robustness of the service so that there is full out-of-hours cover in the evenings and at weekends, and I expect to see that in the very near future.

Photo of Maurice Corry Maurice Corry Conservative

The serious cutbacks to the out-of-hours service at the Vale of Leven hospital presents major challenges for constituents, who will struggle to find public transport to take them to hospital for treatment during antisocial hours, and for already stretched accident and emergency departments, which will now face increasing pressure to meet demand.

For the sake of local community care, will the cabinet secretary commit to preserving the Vale of Leven services and recognise that that vital lifeline cannot afford to be curtailed without consultation?

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

I want to make a number of points to Mr Corry. First, as I have said, home visiting is available throughout the region. Secondly, as I have made crystal clear on more than one occasion, I am absolutely committed to the Vale of Leven as an important site of healthcare. A number of services are now available there, including renal dialysis, a haematology day ward, dermatology and a birthing unit. I know that Mr Corry knows that and that he is personally committed to increasing those services, as I am.

The measure in question is a temporary step. The Vale of Leven’s position as regards out-of-hours services will be finalised and completed in its entirety very soon. All the necessary steps on advanced nurse practitioners, rotas and engagement with GPs will be taken to make the four out-of-hours services robust. That will be the model for increasing the number of out-of-hours units in a robust way to six or seven units, and then to nine, over a period of 12 to 18 months.

All that work is in hand but, in the meantime, “Vale News”, a joint publication from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the hospital watch campaign, which I have read, sets out what the current services are. Because those services—not least the minor injuries unit—are very effective, they will prevent further pressures being put on A and E.

The Presiding Officer:

Two more members wish to ask questions on this subject. I ask for slightly more concise questions and answers.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary agree that the health board must fully take on board the concerns of residents who go to the Vale of Leven hospital and Inverclyde royal hospital and ensure that additional services can be introduced at both hospitals?

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

I agree with the member, and my commitment in both those areas is crystal clear. Level 4 escalation allows us to be much more engaged with the board in directing where its priorities should lie and how it should deliver those. We will continue to do that, and we will update members accordingly.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

The cabinet secretary came to visit the Vale of Leven hospital almost a year ago to discuss the out-of-hours service, when she made a welcome commitment to consider a locally organised and delivered service. Can she explain why NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde thought that it could simply ignore that? What steps will she take to restore the service at the vale and sack the chair and chief executive of the health board?

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

I did indeed make that visit, and I would be happy to visit the hospital again and meet the campaign group again, as I have discussed previously, most recently with Ms Baillie.

It is inexplicable to me why the board did not take up the offer from those GPs, who run many of the services that I have run through. I assure Ms Baillie that that will no longer be ignored and that those services will continue to benefit from the significant commitment of that GP group in the Vale of Leven. We will return to a full out-of-hours service in the vale very swiftly.