PATIENTS face longer waiting times for routine operations in the Lothians after health chiefs ruled that a £72 million new hospital should not offer day surgery.
NHS chiefs have decided not to offer general anaesthetic procedures, such as hernia operations, at the proposed purpose-built East Lothian Community Hospital in Haddington, after a three-month review of surgical services.
Health bosses insist the site would be better used for diagnostic tests, which can be done without general anaesthetic and already suffer considerable waiting times. Up to 2000 operations are carried out each year at Roodlands Hospital in the town, which is due to close when the new site is completed.
Those cases would be diverted to the already under-pressure Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and Western General. Surgeon Simon Paterson-Brown branded the decision a “disaster” which would harm care across Lothian.
He said: “There is no point in building a new hospital which doesn’t do what we need it to do. Taking away general surgery in East Lothian is a significant change in care across the board. I think they should stop this and re-think. They have simply not got the capacity elsewhere to cope.”
A petition to save day surgery launched by Labour MSP Iain Gray has garnered more than 1000 signatures. He said: “It is extremely disappointing that NHS Lothian have refused to take account of the views of my constituents who signed my petition and who clearly want day surgery and general anaesthetic access to remain.
“It is even more worrying that they have continued to ignore the opinions of some of the clinicians who are involved in the service.”
The new hospital will provide an increased number of endoscopy, minor surgery and day-case procedures, which will mean around 2500 East Lothian residents will not have to travel for treatment.
Jim Crombie, NHS Lothian’s chief officer for acute services, said: “Whilst we understand that some people will be unhappy by this decision, our long-term plans, developed with public involvement, are to have general anaesthetic procedures which may require an inpatient stay carried out on our four acute hospital sites. This will ensure greater safety and productivity, as these larger hospitals have the flexibility to manage day-to-day changes in demand and factors such as staff availability.”
Temporary wards with room for 30 patients will be installed at nearby Hermanflat Hospital before construction starts on the site early next year. The outline business case for the project will go before the Scottish Government for approval in July.