At two community meetings held jointly by Jackie Baillie MSP and Hospitalwatch this week, hundreds of local people demanded that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde ensure that services are retained, and others reinstated, at the Vale of Leven Hospital.
Almost 300 people attended the meetings held in Dumbarton and Helensburgh, with more than 200 people in attendance at Dumbarton alone. This is in contrast to the 20 people at the health board organised meeting in Alexandria earlier in the month. It was clear that local people really value the service that they receive at the Vale of Leven Hospital, with staff praised for their second-to-none care.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had previously told attendees at a Moving Forward Together meeting in Alexandria that they had no service change proposals in place and would ensure that the wishes of the public were taken into consideration. So local people took these two meetings as an opportunity to tell the health board what services they want at the Vale of Leven hospital.
The constituency MSP took the same 7 indicative votes at the meetings, adding an extra vote on Out of Hours in Helensburgh and all bar one of the votes came back as unanimous – with one person at the Dumbarton meeting voting against the proposal to restore the Vision for the Vale. The votes were as follows:
• To retain all existing cancer services at the Vale of Leven Hospital and build on them where possible.
• To utilise the capacity for elective surgery at the Vale of Leven Hospital supported by a team of anaesthetists, ensuring that they travel from other GGC hospitals to support the Vale where needed.
• To retain the Medical Assessment Unit in line with the Minor Injuries Unit as it currently stands.
• To have a palliative care unit at the Vale of Leven hospital.
• To have the Vision for the Vale restored, including a fully functioning Out of Hours service.
• To have more investment in the Vale of Leven hospital.
• To increase access to health services north of the river for people who live in the Vale of Leven hospital catchment area. With the starting point being to ensure that as many services are available at the Vale of Leven as possible.
The additional vote held at Helensburgh was:
• To have the Out of Hours service run by the Vale of Leven hospital and not NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, in line with how the Minor Injuries Unit and Medical Assessment Unit are currently run.
Members of the public at both meetings highlighted the need to ensure hospital catchment areas were supported by appropriate transport links. The majority of people at the meetings believed that the Royal Alexandria Hospital was just too far for local people to travel to as public transport from the Vale of Leven catchment area is insufficient and lengthy. In addition, travel to Paisley is hindered by the fact that the A82 is the only road into and out of the area meaning that any accident on the road creates lengthy delays and may be fatal in emergency situations.
Individual wishes for services at the Vale were also recorded, including the re-establishment of the coronary care unit, additional wards being made available and increased services for Parkinson’s patients, among others. All of the wishes of the public will be communicated to the health board by Jackie Baillie MSP on behalf of her constituents.
“I was delighted to see such a big turnout of local people at these meetings, it is so important that the health board know what is important to people in our community when they make decisions about our local services services.
“I know that people at the meeting in Dumbarton were disappointed that the health board didn’t send anyone along to the meeting. While I understand that staff are entitled to holidays, it is difficult to believe that there was not one single person, out of a staff of 39,000, who could represent the health board and answer questions from our community.
“It is clear that people value the services, and staff, at the Vale of Leven hospital. We know that the service at the hospital is second-to-none, and the convenience of having services locally takes away the possibility of adding more stress to, an already difficult time, by travelling to a hospital up to an hour away.
“I will be writing to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to summarise the wishes of the community. It is simply not credible for the health board to claim that they have no proposals in place, when consultants, managers and nurses have been meeting for almost a year in 31 different working groups. However, despite that the meetings decided to accept their offer of a blank sheet of paper.
“The votes taken by the local community, represent a clear set of recommendations that must now be delivered by the health board and service retained at the Vale.”