CONDITIONS in Edinburgh's ageing psychiatric hospital are so bad the wellbeing of patients is actually being harmed, it was claimed today.
The Royal Edinburgh's Patients Council said the state of the buildings was in drastic need of addressing, and that cramped conditions meant there was little privacy or dignity.
The comments come as NHS Lothian considers the future of the sprawling hospital in Morningside, which cares for around 350 patients.
The patient body has urged health chiefs to speed up the process – which has been years in discussion.
The group's project manager David Budd told the Evening News: "It really is at the stage now where patients' health is definitely being compromised.
"The partitions between beds are incredibly thin, the space is cramped, it just is not fit for purpose.
"There is very little dignity and privacy, and those who need some space to help their recovery simply cannot get it."
Many parts of the building – some of which are approaching 200 years old – have also been closed off for safety reasons. This means anyone bringing belongings into the hospital with them has nowhere to store them.
He added: "You have people who have perhaps left their home in a hurry or have been evicted from rented accommodation so they have all their belongings with them – they have to lose them before going in.
"Ward space is also being compromised so you have some people sharing a ward with others who can get very distressed. Something needs to happen urgently."
With such a heavy emphasis on the psychological rehabilitation of patients at the Royal Edinburgh, Mr Budd said the environment was even more important than in acute hospitals.
NHS Lothian is still examining possibilities for the hospital's future. It would appear health bosses' preferred choice is to move main services to beside the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and either retain some in Morningside or move them to a new "urban village" at the Western General site.
But the patient group said a rebuild on the Morningside site – with the option of still selling some of the top-value land – would be best for patients.
"The community has grown up with the hospital, ask anyone around here and the hospital is popular," Mr Budd said.
"Recreating that in another location may have its problems."
NHS Lothian's director of strategic planning and modernisation Jackie Sansbury said: "We recognise that many of the current buildings at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital are old and do not provide a modern healthcare environment and this is why we are carrying out a feasibility study of the current site.
"We are working closely with the patients council and staff on this master-planning project and are looking to have an outline business case prepared as soon as possible.
"During this process, we are continuing to upgrade our current facilities to make the most of the existing infrastructure."