A CITY hospital which was shut and earmarked for sale less than a year ago is now to play a vital role in the Lothian health service for years to come, NHS bosses have admitted.
The Royal Victoria Hospital closed its doors in August after it was replaced with a state-of-the-art £44 million building at the Western General Hospital, before a crisis over beds led to it reopening in November.
Then, NHS Lothian insisted it was brought back as a “temporary alternative” for months, but the health board today confirmed it would remain open for “the medium to long term”.
Five wards, in addition to the two that are already open, are set to be refurbished with NHS Lothian saying the move would provide extra flexibility in beds for older patients.
Health bosses came under fire for performing the dramatic U-turn, which critics said was evidence of chaotic planning in the NHS.
Labour Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack said: “It’s not clear whether the Royal Vic is coming or going and the position seems to change by the month. NHS Lothian clearly needs to think creatively to stretch resources to meet growing demand but there seems to be no clear sense of direction.
“Less than a year ago this hospital was deemed surplus to requirements and now it seems set to remain to provide older people’s services alongside the facility built to replace it.
“This raises serious questions about long-term planning at the board and funding to implement it.”
Just seven months ago, NHS Lothian said it was pressing ahead with the sale of the hospital and revealed it was working on a planning and design brief for potential purchasers.
Tory MSP and health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “It will be baffling for patients how a hospital can be closed down and rebuilt elsewhere, only for the old building to be reopened temporarily, before having a major refurbishment.
“This is an issue the health board needs to get to grips with at once.”
Professor Alex McMahon, director of strategic planning, performance reporting and information at NHS Lothian, said appraisal work would be carried out to find out the costs of bringing another five wards up to standard.
He added: “We have taken the decision to retain the Royal Victoria Hospital for the medium to long term to provide us with additional flexibility in the number of beds available for older people’s services.
“This is one of a range of options we are looking at to increase capacity within our older people’s services and to allow us to look at transferring some services from other sites into accommodation which better meets the needs of this patient group.”