Lizzy Buchan: Top doctors speak out over merger of trauma service

Monklands Hospital, Airdrie. Picture: Colin Templeton
Monklands Hospital, Airdrie. Picture: Colin Templeton
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A group of top doctors have warned that patients would suffer due to proposals for an overhaul of services at a hospital that was saved by ministers.

NHS Lanarkshire plans to remove orthopaedic and trauma services from from Monklands Hospital, in Airdrie, as part of attempts to merge the services on a single site after struggling with staffing and the pressures of the ageing population. In the interim, the health board will run the services at Hairmyres Hospital and Wishaw General Hospital before eventually switching to a sole service at Wishaw.

Nicola Sturgeon reversed plans to close the A&E department at Monklands when she was Health Secretary, and her successor Alex Neil also campaigned to keep it open.

Campaigners have accused the health board of “downgrading by the back door”.

NHS Lanarkshire said the move would improve patient care and ease the pressures on services ahead of the winter.

Five orthopaedic consultants and two specialists said they could not support the plans in a strongly-worded missive to the health board.

Their letter, seen by The Scotsman, said: “It is our opinion that moving trauma patients about the country on stretchers is not the way to address the staffing problem and therefore we cannot support it.

“We are happy to give you all other support to enhance the workforce numbers and help solve the problem but the patients should not suffer as a result.”

Peter Owens, from the Stop Monklands Orthopaedic A&E downgrade campaign, said: “If you take away trauma and you take away orthopaedics from the hospital then you are taking away the A&E.

“It’s downgrading by the back door. Block by block they are moving services away from the hospital.”

Dr Jane Burns, NHS Lanarkshire medical director of acute services, said: “There were also considerable pressures on trauma and orthopaedic services last winter and the board would be negligent if it failed to act now as there is a real risk of services collapsing this coming winter without this change.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said they were “absolutely committed” to retaining the A&E provision at the hospital.