Senior medical leaders in Scotland have warned that hospitals and services may have to go if the NHS is to make the best use of scarce resources.
The closure of redundant facilities may be “essential” if the NHS is to prioritise the “right and most valuable approach” to patient care, according to the The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE).
They are now calling for “courageous decisions” from political leaders in the face of “misleading” demands for “more doctors, more nurses” in face of tightening budgets.
Health Secretary Shona Robison is currently considering a proposals to close Lightburn hospital in Glasgow, while other services around the country could disappear as part of a shift towards regional “centres of excellence”.
These are often seen as the best way to maintain standards of patient care in areas like, orthopaedics, maternity and paediatrics, as growing population demands increases the strain on services.
The RCPE warns Scotland is not making the best use of NHS facilities in a submission to Holyrood’s health committee.
“With limited national wealth, decision makers and influencers must realise that the removal of redundant, although cherished facilities, practices and remedies is essential,” its states.
There are even fears that decisions to keep hospitals open are not being taken for the best clinical reasons but to avoid a backlash.
In a highly controversial move, cleft lip and palate surgical services have been axed at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, with patients instead moved to Glasgow for surgery.
In the Capital, Liberton hospital is to close next year after a further loss of beds recently while St John’s children’s unit has been closed to overnight patients.
A new national strategy for the NHS published by the Scottish Government last year warned that ongoing austerity cuts mean there will be “constraints on what can be achieved with anticipated future resources.”
It points to growing evidence that many less complex operations are best carried out in “specialist” units.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “People are now living longer lives, which means our health and care services must change to aid increasingly more people living with multiple, complex conditions. Our ambitions for the NHS are founded on the twin approach of investment and reform.”
Ministers say that NHS revenue spending will increase by £2 billion by 2021.