LEADING doctors have urged health chiefs to save an under-threat day-surgery service in East Lothian to ease pressure on the Capital’s hospitals.
NHS bosses are currently considering whether to cut general anaesthetic procedures at the new £72 million East Lothian Community Hospital, which was granted planning permission last week.
Plans for the purpose-built facility will incorporate facilities from Roodlands Hospital and Hermandflat Hospital, both in Haddington.
Simon Paterson-Brown, one of Lothian’s top surgeons, said the day-case surgery service must be saved as doing more minor procedures there, such as hernia operations, could help stretched staff at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (ERI) and the Western General, as well as patients in East Lothian.
Mr Paterson-Brown, who spends one day a week working as a consultant general surgeon at Roodlands, said: “The ERI is just swamped with emergency cases, so it is difficult for us to do a simple surgery there.
“We do a lot, but we could do a lot more at Roodlands and keep the pressure off the Western General Hospital and the ERI.
“NHS Lothian spends huge amounts of money sending patients through to the private sector. We are just saying, ‘we need a bit of investment up front and we can make things easier’.
“It’s vital for the whole of Lothian that we are able to work effectively and we feel Roodlands has a role to play.”
More than 300 people have signed a petition to save the service, set up by Lothian Labour MSP Iain Gray.
He said: “I continue to be concerned about the possibility of services in the new hospital being reduced.
“What is surprising for me is I have spoken to staff and patients about how important this is. Now I hear that consultants who are involved are absolutely clear that this is a vital service for the people of East Lothian and will take pressure off services in Edinburgh and Livingston.
“It beggars belief that they continue to say it’s about the service when really it’s clear to people that the real aim is to make the hospital smaller and cheaper.”
NHS officials insisted there will be a form of surgical services at the hospital and stressed no decision has been made.
Jim Crombie, chief officer of acute service at NHS Lothian, said: “There will be surgical services in the new hospital and I want to make that clear.
“We will have our business case to the Scottish Government later this year. As part of the development of this important document, a project team has been established, bringing together our clinical and leadership experts including surgeons, anaesthetists, endoscopists and theatre nurses, as well as union colleagues.
“No decisions have been taken yet. However, following our review, the group will make recommendations as to how best we can deliver sustainable surgical services to people in East Lothian.”