Comment: Patients worried about East Lothian surgery changes

File picture: Jon Savage

File picture: Jon Savage

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PATIENTS across the Lothians will be deeply worried by the decision to close the day surgery service in East Lothian.

Most of the services that Roodlands Hospital in Haddington provides will carry on in the new hospital that is being built to serve the county.

However, as part of the wider changes being planned by the health board, patients from across the Lothians will no longer be sent there for hernia operations and other specialist procedures. Instead, space will have to be found for them in the already oversubscribed surgical units at the Royal Infirmary and the Western General.

The concern is not the extra miles that some patients will have to travel for their operations. These days people understand that they may have to travel a wee bit further for treatment than their nearest hospital, but within reason are happy to do that if it means they will be seen promptly.

The worry, though, is that, for many patients, this won’t happen under the new system. Adding the surgeons’ lists from Roodlands to the already under-pressure teams in Edinburgh’s main hospitals is simply going to create more strain. There is a greater risk of long waits for treatment and ops being cancelled.

The overall changes being planned by NHS Lothian are not all bad news. They are likely to cut waiting times for endoscopies and other vital diagnostic procedures. That promises to be a significant improvement for many patients with serious concerns.

The bigger fear is the impression of robbing Peter to pay Paul and the sense that our National Health Service is increasingly creaking at the seams. The worry is of short-term financial imperatives driving decision making rather than a health board with the resources at its disposal to plan properly for the future.

We have seen before at the Royal Infirmary a hospital being built without enough space to meet demand. The same mistake must not be made twice.