Blow for supporters as health chiefs confirm North Berwick's Eddington Hospital ward will stay closed

Health chiefs in East Lothian have confirmed a community hospital ward will remain closed as NHS pandemic pressures continue to mount.

By Marie Sharp
Saturday, 11th December 2021, 4:55 am

NHS Lothian’s Gold Command group met to review a decision to temporarily move staff from North Berwick’s Edington Hospital to East Lothian Community Hospital (ELCH), Haddington.

And they confirmed the decision, as reported by the Local Democracy Reporting Service previously, to keep the hospital’s only ward closed.

Alison Macdonald, Chief Officer of East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) and a member of command group who considered the issue, said she understood local disappointment at the decision.

Staying shut: Eddington Hospital

But she said: “Transferring the staff who support Edington’s six inpatient beds has allowed us to open a total of 16 beds at the ELCH, that’s a net increase of ten beds in East Lothian.

“We can only do that by having more staff in one place. It allows greater flexibility in how staff are deployed day to day. At a time when demand for healthcare services has reached unprecedented heights and when resources are so stretched, every single bed counts.”

Supporters of Edington Hospital had described the decision to move staff out in September as “tearing the heart out of the community.”

Pictured L-R: Murray Duncanson, Hands Around The Edington; Lorna Sinclair, North Berwick Health & Wellbeing Association; Paul McLennan MSP; Judy Lockhart, North Berwick Community Council; Craig Hoy MSP; Jackie Baillie MSP; Martin Whitfield MSP; Sue Webber MSP.

Mrs Macdonald said: “We understand there will be disappointment in the local community, but we also have to look at the bigger picture.

“Transferring the staff means we can keep more beds open and look after more people while preserving patient and staff safety during this exceptionally difficult period.”

A community hospital which saw its only ward close after staff were temporarily moved out is not expected to reopen this year as NHS Lothian continues to struggle with recruitment issues.

In a joint statement Murray Duncanson from Friends of The Edington, Hilary Smith of North Berwick Coastal Health & Wellbeing Association and Judy Lockhart, chair of North Berwick Community Council expressed their disappointment in the decision.

They said: “We are disappointed beyond words by the decision to keep the Edington closed, a hospital that ran seven inpatient beds, not six, and was fully staffed at the time of closure.

“There was a loud chorus of disapproval from the community as evidenced not only by the petition that received approaching 8,000 signatures, the hundreds of emails and letters that we received – and undoubtedly NHS Lothian – and the fact that MSPs from three political parties came together out of a very sincere shared concern that we do not lose a vital healthcare facility that has been at the heart of our community for over 100 years.

“The Edington Steering Group was not prepared to accept a further three-month wait to determine the future of the hospital and its services and called for future reviews to take place monthly, which has been granted.

“We also seek full and immediate clarification of the re-opening criteria with a formal assurance that this will not be a permanent closure.

“East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership owes the people of East Lothian that much.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.