August 18, 2008

Experts Recommend Removal of Anaesthetics From Vale of Leven Patients ‘Should Be Sent to Paisley or Glasgow’


THE Vale of Leven Hospital faces the removal of key services under recommendations from an expert panel reporting to Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon.

It concluded there should be no further anaesthetics facility at the West Dunbartonshire hospital and that only patients referred by their doctors or those with minor injuries should be able to go there. Those with more serious emergency conditions should be required to go to Glasgow or the Royal Alexandra Hospital, across the Clyde in Paisley.

It is estimated that would cut the number of accident and emergency admissions - now standing at nearly 3200 per year - by roughly half.

The expert clinicians who prepared the review warned opponents of change that it would be "not only disingenuous, but ethically questionable" to say that the standard of care at the Vale of Leven is being compromised by requiring patients to travel further to get care, saying the evidence for that is "limited and low-grade".

The consequences of the recommendations, if approved by ministers and adopted by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, are that any cases requiring anaesthetic treatment, whether scheduled or emergency, would have to go elsewhere. That includes referrals by GPs and through NHS 24 phone consultations.

Ms Sturgeon said: "This report clearly shows there are alternatives to closing the emergency unit which can retain vital services locally without compromising on patient safety. It is important to emphasise that no final decisions have been taken, but this report will inform future work."

The review team, led by Professor Chris Dodds, was set up by the minister as part of the SNP administration's attempt to avoid closure of local services. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had previously announced plans to close the hospital's unscheduled admission unit because of its concerns over anaesthetic cover.

Mr Dodds's team looked at various ways of retaining anaesthetic service and reached the unanimous verdict that "the continued provision of anaesthetic services at the Vale of Leven is not sustainable in the short, medium or long term".

Against the background of critics claiming the transport delays could cost patient lives, the team concluded: "The weight of available evidence indicates that the additional transfer time involved to Glasgow hospitals is highly unlikely to significantly affect the outcome in the small number of patients involved."

The recommendation was welcomed by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which said it would enable some patients to continue to receive care at the Vale of Leven while removing certain types of emergency care that gave "concern" for patient safety.

Chief executive Tom Divers said: "It is now for this board to take forward these new ideas to help inform a consultation that will secure a sustainable and safe longterm future for the hospital backed with a programme of investment.

"The board will rapidly produce proposals for detailed public scrutiny on the future services that can be developed and delivered at the Vale of Leven site. " Jackie Baillie, Labour MSP for Dumbarton, said: "To all intents and purposes, Nicola Sturgeon has announced the closure of emergency facilities at the Vale of Leven "

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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