Pressure on to detail new treatment centres for Lothians

Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has been promised a new treatment centre. Picture: Greg Macvean

Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has been promised a new treatment centre. Picture: Greg Macvean

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MINISTERS are coming under pressure to reveal their plans for dedicated new treatment centres in the Lothians.

Extra theatres and bed capacity has been lined up for Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and St John’s Hospital in Livingston to carry out hip, knee and cataract operations.

The new centres at the ERI and St John’s will cost between £45 and £50 million. They are part of a bigger £200m package, which will see similar centres built in Aberdeen, Inverness and Dundee.

They will be modelled on the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank, which already specialises in planned operations, taking pressure off emergency hospitals.

The announcement was made by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in her closing address to the SNP conference in Aberdeen in October.

But since then, no further details have been made public, sparking concern from Lothian MSP and Scottish Greens health spokeswoman Alison Johnstone.

She said: “Demand for elective procedures such as hip and knee replacements and cataract operations is set to rise substantially and the prospect of new centres of excellence makes sense.

“What doesn’t make sense is why the Scottish Government doesn’t yet know what services these centres will provide yet is confident enough to confirm a price tag of £200m.

“Does this budget cover land acquisition, construction, equipment and – vitally – new staff?

“Given the recruitment and retention problems we have in the NHS it is essential that ministers make clear whether these new centres and the expansion of the Golden Jubilee will use the existing workforce or will fund additional qualified staff to meet the growing demand.”

Scotland currently carries out 15,000 hip and knee operations and 42,000 cataract operations every year, but these figures are expected to grow by 30 per cent over the next decade.

John Connaghan, chief operating officer for NHS Scotland, said talks had been ongoing with health chiefs in the Lothian to discuss exactly what was needed.

And he insisted the new centres would be amongst the best in the world.

He said: “That in itself will make our consultants in these elective centres much more productive.”

“We currently send £42m worth of work into the private sector. That is an enormous resource we are going to repatriate.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com