Temporary closure of beds sparks fears over future of Lothian's last cottage hospital
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Health bosses have announced the six beds at Edington Cottage Hospital in North Berwick and the staff supporting them are being relocated to East Lothian Community Hospital in Haddington.
They say the move is in order to ease pressures caused by high levels of absence due to sickness and self-isolation because of Covid.
It is planned to take effect over the next couple of weeks and will be reviewed every three months.
But South of Scotland Tory MSP Craig Hoy said: “I am deeply concerned that this will be used as an excuse to permanently centralise inpatient services in East Lothian and to effectively close the Edington.
“This move has taken place without any public consultation and is the thin end of the wedge which could see services removed from both North Berwick and eventually Belhaven Hospital in Dunbar.
"Patients do better when they are in their own communities, which is why local health services are so important.
“Given the increasing size of East Lothian’s communities we need the SNP government to properly fund localised healthcare and hospital provision in the county.”
He said he had written to the chief executive of NHS Lothian and the Scottish Government to express his concerns and seek reassurances that inpatient work and admissions will return to the Edington in the near future.
South of Scotland Labour MSP Martin Whitfield said the NHS had a staffing crisis after ten years of poor planning and under-funding, which lay behind the decision on the Edington.
“My concern is that come December, when it is going to be reviewed, unless there are big changes by the government in funding for the NHS the position won't have changed – and the longer something stays closed, the longer those patients are in other places and the staff are redeployed, the less likely it is to reopen, which would be a tragedy for the area.
"Coming into the winter season, normally the beds would be full with people coming in, recovering from things and hopefully going back out – and that's now not available, so families have to travel further.”
He said he understood the reasons for the temporary closure. “The challenge is to make sure the resources and the staffing are there so it can reopen as soon as possible – and that's what I'm calling for."
Alison Macdonald, chief officer of East Lothian health and social care partnership, said: “While the decision to relocate the six inpatient beds at Edington Cottage Hospital was very difficult, it has been made to ensure that patient safety is maintained.
“We are approaching what could be one of the most challenging winters on record for the NHS, coupled with the continuing threat posed by the Covid pandemic. This reality is the reason why we must act now, in a planned way, to consolidate staffing and ensure that we can maintain patient safety, continue to deliver quality care and protect the wellbeing of our hard-working staff.”