NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has announced that the local Out-of-Hours service at the Vale of Leven Hospital will now only operate between midnight and 8am on weekdays from Monday – Friday, with patients being redirected to either the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley or the Queen Elizabeth University hospital in Glasgow, during evenings and weekends.
The health board is claiming that this is a temporary consolidation of services due to significant challenges in GPs available to work within Out-of-Hours services but admitted in their report that they anticipate the transformation and redesign to take 18-24 months.
Last week Jackie Baillie revealed that the Out of Hours Service had been closed 179 times in 2019 alone and, despite the agreement of the Cabinet Secretary for Health that things needed to improve, following her visit to the Vale of Leven hospital in 2019, things have got worse.
In a debate on the NHS in the Scottish Parliament, Jackie raised the problems with Out of Hours and called for the Chair and Chief Executive of the board to be sacked given that they have failed local people time and time again.
Local Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie described this latest news as a slap in the face for local people. She is reiterating her call for the Chair and Chief Executive to be sacked from NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde.
Local MSP for Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond Jackie Baillie said:
“I am furious that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is shutting the local out-of-hours service at the Vale in the evenings and during the weekend. There was no consultation with local people and a breath-taking disregard for their interests.
“It’s shocking that this could go on for 18 to 24 months whilst the health board redesign the out of hours service.
“I have raised out-of-hours services at the Vale of Leven Hospital numerous times with the Health Secretary, including last week when I demanded that she sack the Chair and Chief Executive for their failure to get to grips with delivering the most basic of emergency service. The consequence of the Out of Hours Service being shut is that more people will end up at the front door of A&E contributing to even longer waiting times to be seen.
“It’s clear that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is incapable of delivering local Out of Hours services. They are failing local people and particularly those who come from disadvantaged areas that struggle to access services. It’s time for the Scottish Government to intervene to maintain local out-of-hours services and sack the Chair and Chief Executive of the board. Nothing less will do.”
Notes to Editor:
Copy of the Transcript from Jackie’s speech last week during a debate on Health on Wednesday 19 February 2020:
Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab):
It is perhaps unsurprising that I will focus on NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. It is Scotland’s largest health board, which covers the people who I represent in the Dumbarton constituency. I welcome the fact that the cabinet secretary has recognised how poor the health board is by ordering special measures for it at stage 4 of the NHS board performance framework.
The truth is that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is failing—even the Scottish Government recognises that. It is failing its staff, who work so hard often with insufficient resources; it is failing patients, who are languishing on ever-increasing waiting lists; and it is failing our communities, as services are centralised away from their areas—making it difficult for those who are disadvantaged to access the services that they need.
The health board used to argue that centralisation delivered better outcomes, but, for the first time since records began, life expectancy in Scotland has fallen. That is a scandal in 21st century Scotland, and it is the measure on which the SNP Government should be judged—and judged harshly.
I welcome some of the things that the cabinet secretary has done, but I also think that she has been too lenient with those at the very top of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. Frankly, I have had enough.
Will Jackie Baillie accept that there is a contradiction between a Labour member arguing that I should escalate NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to a higher level and the Labour motion citing escalation as an indication of failure by the NHS? Is it not, rather, an indication of a Government that is getting a grip of what is going wrong and acting on it? [Interruption].
As the cabinet secretary will have heard my colleagues shouting, the two are not mutually exclusive. We do need action, and I am about to call for an increase in the action that is taken.
The level of complacency and downright incompetence that I have witnessed merits the escalation of special measures to stage 5—the most serious intervention possible—and the removal of the chair and chief executive, who have presided over that shocking series of failures.
Let us not forget that those failures include the cases of children such as Milly Main, who died needlessly in the Queen Elizabeth, Scotland’s flagship hospital, because of infections due to the condition of the building. How devastating for those families affected, and how outrageous that there appear to have been attempts to cover up the scandal.
The culture of secrecy and the lack of openness and transparency comes from the very top of the health board. I witnessed that first-hand when I worked alongside families who experienced the Clostridioides difficile outbreak in the Vale of Leven hospital where 38 people died. There was an independent review and a public inquiry, but it appears that lessons have not been learned by the health board. I suspect that the problems are not with the infection control team, and instead rest with the leadership at the very top, who did not act on the information that they had and effectively covered up the problems. It really does not get more serious than that, and it is symptomatic of the wider failures at the very top of the board.
Waiting times for scheduled and unscheduled care are now through the roof. Despite the additional resource being provided by the cabinet secretary, things appear to be getting worse, not better. Let me illustrate that.
John Christie is a well-liked local teacher. He was referred for a left knee replacement in June 2017. In July 2019, two years later, he was told that he needed a hip replacement first. He went for his pre-op in October 2019, but his surgery is unlikely to take place until August 2020. He is in so much pain that he had to be hospitalised. He is now barely able to walk. Almost three years on from his first referral, Mr Christie is still waiting. That is intolerable.
Fergus McMurdo is five years old. He needs his adenoids removed. He will wait until October 2020, more than a year after being seen by the consultant, for his operation. In the meantime, he is in pain and his condition is slowing his reading development at school. That is the tip of the iceberg. In my casework bag, I have the details of hundreds more cases in which people are being failed by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. The treatment time guarantee in that health board is, simply, a joke.
I turn to the out-of-hours service at the Vale of Leven hospital. In 2018, there were 82 closures due to a lack of GP cover. In 2019, the number of closures soared to 179. That is a 118 per cent increase, and that is despite me challenging the health board—and, indeed, the cabinet secretary challenging the health board, during a meeting, with me, at the hospital in June 2019.
The problems are repeated at Inverclyde royal hospital. The Sir Lewis Ritchie review of primary care out-of-hours services reported in 2015. What has the health board been doing in the past five years? It has singularly failed to resolve the problem. I raised out-of-hours services again in the chamber in December 2019, and I was told that seven out of 70 salaried doctors had been recruited.
An iceberg is currently melting faster than the speed at which NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde acts. The consequence of all that incompetence is that patients end up at the front door of A and E, increasing waiting times for conditions that can best be treated locally.
The level of inaction and incompetence is truly outrageous, and the contempt of the chair and chief executive for MSPs is all too evident.