NHS Borders will announce next month how and when the public will be consulted over any changes to the way clinical services are delivered in the region, writes Andrew Keddie.
The health board says a report commissioned for its February meeting “will include full proposals for effective engagement with the public, staff and other stakeholders, along with timescales”.
Speculation over the future of the four 23-bed community hospitals at Hawick, Kelso, Duns and Peebles was fuelled in November when NHS Borders revealed that a review of clinical services – including in-patient provision – was being undertaken.
And last month, board chairman John Raine gave the council an assurance that any changes would be subject to full public consultation through SBC’s network of area forums.
That did not satisfy John Lamont, the Conservative MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, who is seeking to oust sitting Lib Dem MP Michael Moore in the Westminster seat of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk in May’s general election.
In a press release last week, Mr Lamont demanded that the public must have the chance to directly question NHS bosses.
He revealed he had written to Mr Raine demanding a guarantee that when the plans for changes are revealed, senior health managers should come to Hawick, Kelso and Duns in his constituency for a “face-to-face dialogue with local people”.
“It is all too easy for administrators to come up with plans which may look good on paper, but NHS Borders must hear directly the concerns I am getting from patients and staff that closures would be damaging,” said Mr Lamont.
Responding, a health board spokesperson stated: “NHS Borders would like to reiterate that, at no stage, has the board stated its intention to close community hospitals.
“A report has been commissioned for the February meeting of the board to establish how best the review, including a review of in-patient services, should be taken forward. This is a not a focus on community hospitals. This is a focus of how we deliver better services to people in the region.”