Hospital plan confusion

Thomas Hope Hospital, Langholm
Thomas Hope Hospital, Langholm

A south of Scotland health board has said discussions around building a new community hospital are ‘in their infancy’.

It comes after south of Scotland Lib Dem MSP Jim Hume said that a ‘significant investment’ in a new hospital in Langholm was at odds with the SNP’s “shameful” claims that the NHS in Scotland could only be protected by independence.

Mr Hume issued the statement following an ITV Border report last week that NHS Dumfries and Galloway had announced that ‘up to £3million’ would be spent on a new-build hospital.

But, when asked to provide more details on the plans, NHS Dumfries and Galloway provided The Southern with a statement from chief executive Jeff Ace which seems to shed doubt on any funding commitment at this stage.

Mr Ace said: “The health board position is as previously set out; that it will not be best value to continue to invest in Thomas Hope Hospital and that a new-build solution will be required in the future.

“Detailed planning for this has yet to begin.”

Mr Ace added that the health board had been looking for some time at options for the ‘re-provision of inpatient capacity’ at the hospital, but said that closer working with Dumfries and Galloway Council could help.

“The creation of integrated locality working between the NHS and the council would give us the right mechanism to take this forward,” Mr Ace said.

The two organisations have established a shadow health and social care partnership board and this is aiming to find ways in which pressure can be taken off hospital beds by supporting people in their own communities.

It has been reported that the shadow board has agreed a structure of four geographical areas, which will each have its own manager and budget.

An NHS Dumfries and Galloway spokeswoman said she could not add anything further when asked if the health board was able to confirm if any commitment has been made to building a new hospital, or if its main focus just now was on freeing up bed space.

At a community council meeting last week, Mr Ace said the health board was looking at potential sites for a new hospital, and partners for such a project.

However, it appears that although the first steps may be being taken to provide a new hospital, something more concrete is still some way off.

Mr Hume has urged officials to look at future community uses of the Thomas Hope building in Langholm, should a new hospital be built to replace it.