Firstly, I want to reassure your readers that the Vale of Leven Hospital does have a long term future and will continue to play an important part in the delivery of healthcare in Greater Glasgow and Clyde. Any suggestion that there’s a hidden agenda to close the hospital is unhelpful, causes unnecessary concerns and are groundless.
As you will be aware, the Scottish Government has recently published its Health and Social Care Delivery Plan and we are now reviewing how we will deliver healthcare to communities across Greater Glasgow and Clyde in line with this plan and the National Clinical Strategy that was also published last year.
So, over the coming months, we will be working with the local Health and Social Care Partnerships to determine how services are delivered in hospitals and in the community. We want to design services that deliver high quality, efficient and affordable health and social care services. Plans for healthcare services will be developed by our clinicians and informed by the views of all our stakeholders, including the patients who use our services.
At our meeting in February the Health Board endorsed a communications strategy that will facilitate public engagement with the planning process. We want to ensure that the public are kept informed as our service planning takes shape.
While our longer term plans are being developed there will always be issues that require a more immediate response. Your paper has quite rightly highlighted some of these over recent months and I thought you might appreciate an update on the progress being made to bring certainty to the delivery of these services.
I appreciate that the proposed change to the services provided by the Community Maternity Unit have caused concerns locally for some time. The Health Board will decide in May whether or not this will go forward to the Cabinet Secretary for a final decision. Of course, it is unfortunate that we have not reached a decision sooner but I’m sure you will agree that it is important that the Board considers all aspects of the proposal to withdraw the birthing service. This includes reviewing the findings of the recently published review of Maternity and Neonatal services across Scotland.
One thing I would like to emphasis is that whatever the outcome of the review of the birthing service, there are no plans to close the Community Maternity Unit and there is no threat to the ante-natal and post-natal support delivered to the local community from the Vale of Leven Hospital.
I’m also aware that the recent temporary closures of the GP Out of Hours service based at the Vale of Leven Hospital has been a cause for concern locally. As you know, this situation is not unique to the Vale and is a consequence of too few of our GPs volunteering to work out of hours in addition to their normal surgery hours. The Health Board and the local Health and Social Care Partnerships across Greater Glasgow and Clyde are already working with the General Practitioners to consider how to increase the number of volunteers. They are also looking at other options for delivering out of hours services in future. This includes considering the recommendations of Sir Lewis Ritchie’s report to the Scottish Government on the GP Out of Hours Service across Scotland. I expect the Board will receive the output from this work in May.
In the meantime, I can reassure you that everything possible is being done to protect the continuity of the GP Out of Hours Service at the Vale of Leven Hospital.
Another cause for concern has been the future of the Haematology service following the resignation of the consultant haematologist based at the Vale of Leven Hospital. Although it has proved difficult to recruit another specialist, I can confirm that the outpatient clinic and day case services at the Vale will continue with the support of locum specialist Haematology staff until we are able to fill the vacant consultant post.
So, while the difficulty in recruiting a replacement was interpreted by some commentators as “the removal of haematology services” from the Vale of Leven Hospital, clearly that is not the case.
In conclusion, I want to reassure your readers that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board remain committed to delivering acute services at the Vale of Leven Hospital and together with the West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership we will consult with all our stakeholders on how best we can deliver hospital and community care to our patients in 2017 and beyond.
John Brown CBE
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde