HEALTH bosses say consultations are still continuing between its officials and local NHS staff, patients and the public over plans to either move the existing hydrotherapy pool at the Borders General Hospital to another site within the medical facility at Melrose or transfer it to an alternative location altogether.
There has been a huge public outcry about the possible closure of the existing pool, which is being reviewed as part of plans to redevelop the outpatient service at the BGH.
The Borders Patients Action Group (BPAG), which has now garnered more than 2,000 signatures on its petitions, claims it was only due to public pressure that NHS Borders did not get away with shutting the pool at Christmas and that the public backlash has forced the health authority into an embarrassing stay of execution and the current prolonged period of consultation.
And the BPAG, which attended an open NHS Borders meeting last week, claims one member who spoke with NHS Borders chief executive Calum Campbell at the meeting, was allegedly told that the existing pool will definitely have to be closed.
BPAG told TheSouthern this week: “We are very lucky in the Borders in being able to boast an attractive hospital, extremely well planned in its early stages, 25 years ago.
“NHS Borders tell us they are ‘remodelling the hospital’. They deem the BGH at present as having unsuitable accommodation for the work of a modern out-patient department.
“We can expect, ‘a new approach to way-finding’- ‘larger corridors’ - ‘self check-in facilities’ and ‘a more accessible environment.’
“Is this not just spin? Where are the real advantages to the patients? Are there any, in fact?
“Are these advantages worth the loss of an effective space for patients to be treated by physiotherapists and the loss of the hydrotherapy pool, so vital for many patients in extreme pain.”
Responding this week, NHS Borders reiterrated it had been given the opportunity to obtain funding of £2.2million from the Scottish Government to enable it to bring forward plans to redevelop existing outpatient facilities, which it says are not fit for the purpose of delivering modern healthcare.
This, says the local health authority, will help it create a new, modern and more accessible outpatient department on the ground floor of the BGH which will include a new rehabilitation department for physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
There is to be a phased approach to the development and it will be as part of the second phase that the remaining outpatient clinics will be rearranged, including moving the pool, either to a new location within the BGH or to another site.
NHS Borders says its officials are currently engaging with a wide range of staff, patients and public on this issue, but that the timescale for the second phase has not been finalised.
And asked for an update on the situation with the pool this week, Mr Campbell confirmed to TheSouthern the hydrotherapy service will be reprovisioned, either somewhere else within the BGH or at another site or sites in the Borders.
“After 25 years, the BGH and its services have changed significantly and we have to continue to develop the site and its services to move with changes and improvements in health care,” he said.
“We have to move quickly to take this project forward or risk losing the additional funding. It is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss if we want to improve facilities and ensure greater patient safety.”