Medical and planning leads from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde met with more than 250 members of the local community at a public meeting in Dumbarton on Thursday 21st September 2006.
The meeting was arranged to give the local community an opportunity to find out more about the reasons why the next stage of the Lomond Integrated Care pilot at the Vale of Leven Hospital cannot proceed because of clinical concerns about patient safety.
Independently chaired by the Reverend Ian Miller, the meeting also gave the public the opportunity to ask questions about the next steps to plan alternative arrangements for emergency inpatient care at the hospital.
The key issues raised during the meeting related to patient safety, availability of anaesthetists, transport and concerns over the future of the hospital.
Dr Brian Cowan, Medical Director for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, who participated in the panel discussions, said: "This was a very useful and constructive meeting which gave us the opportunity to hear first hand from local people. We know that there is real disappointment and concern about the fact that the pilot cannot proceed and uncertainty about the future.
"We know that there are important issues around capacity and transport that we need to address and we are committed to addressing these. It is also important to point out that this is just the start of a process and that we are committed to working with local clinical
staff, patients and the ambulance service to plan and put in place the very best alternative arrangements for local people and their families. "
Questions were asked about why the pilot could not proceed and why we could not continue to provide emergency medical inpatient care at the hospital.
The panel explained that the next stage of the pilot required anaesthetic cover to be removed and that the consensus of Clyde consultants was that this was not a safe option for patients.
As the pilot offered the only possible alternative solution for maintaining the out-of-hours emergency cover required for urgent inpatient admissions, the panel explained that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde now has no alternative but to plan the transfer of emergency inpatient care to other hospitals.
Availability of Anaesthetists
The community asked why anaesthetists could not be transferred from Paisley or Glasgow to provide anaesthetic cover at the Vale of Leven Hospital
The panel explained that there is a national shortage of anaesthetists and that this is a problem for many local hospitals across Scotland not just the Vale of Leven. This is also why Glasgow is redesigning how its acute inpatient services will be provided, including reducing the number of A&E departments from five to two.
They also explained that it is simply not possible to transfer doctors from other hospitals as anaesthetic rotas are already fully committed and there simply is not enough consultants to rotate.
In response to questions about why we were unable to simply recruit more doctors, the panel responded by explaining that a sustainable medical staffing structure for emergency care cannot be achieved at the Vale because of the changes to services which have already taken place This was why the Lomond Integrated Care Pilot was developed to provide an alternative way of maintaining emergency inpatient care at the Vale of Leven hospital without on-site anaesthetic cover.
Questions were raised about the safety of the time it would take to transfer patients to other hospitals in Glasgow or paisley and about the capacity of the ambulance service to cope with the extra workload.
The panel acknowledged that there are major issues for the Scottish Ambulance Service in providing a different model of care and that they are committed to working with them to address key transport issues and concerns.
Many attendees felt that the changes were being made to save money and the NHS Board should ask the Scottish Executive for additional funding to maintain existing services at the Vale of Leven Hospital
The panel explained that the changes were not down to money and that clinical safety was the key priority and driving force behind the need to look at alternative ways of providing local services. They also confirmed that even if more money was made available they would not be able to create a medical staffing model for the hospital which would enable the retention of emergency inpatient care.
Future of hospital
Concerns were raised about the future of the hospital including whether the physical fabric of the buildings would be maintained if services were removed
The panel reassured the community that they were committed to retaining consultant lead services at Vale of Leven for post acute care and planned inpatient care and that outpatient, day surgery, diagnostic and renal services would also remain at the hospital
For further information contact the NHSGGC Press Office on 0141 201 4429.