Labour attacks SNP over NHS hospital beds closure threat

Edinburghs Western General Hospital faces the bulk of bed cuts. Picture: Ian RutherfordEdinburghs Western General Hospital faces the bulk of bed cuts. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Edinburghs Western General Hospital faces the bulk of bed cuts. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Lothian health bosses have earmarked more than 200 hospital beds for closure as part of a 'recovery plan' that sets out cuts to the NHS.

Details were revealed in a ­document called Bridging the Gap, written by the finance director of what is one of the biggest health boards in ­Scotland.

Hospitals are identified as “business units”, and a total of 224 beds are at “risk” of being cut over the course of a year.

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A total of 80 beds at the ­Western General Hospital would be axed, while 122 would be cut at the Royal ­Infirmary of Edinburgh and 20 at St John’s hospital in ­Livingston.

Two beds would be also be cut at diagnostics, anaesthetics and critical care services across the Lothian area.

The programme of cuts comes despite a Holyrood ­election pledge from the SNP to protect the NHS budget and to “ensure frontline spending continues to increase in real terms in each year of the next parliament” if the party is 
re-elected on 5 May.

Labour Lothian candidate Sarah Boyack said that the bed closures showed that the SNP had starved Scotland’s NHS of cash during its time in government and claimed the party had failed to deliver its pledge to protect health services.

Ms Boyack added: “Reducing the number of beds available without addressing the social care crisis will increase the strain on staff and resources.

“Cutting bed numbers without addressing the systemic underfunding of services and the social care crisis will only add to the severe pressures faced by patients and staff.”

Margaret Watt, of the Scotland Patients Association, said the plan was “unacceptable”.

She added: “I am ­concerned as we’re short of hospital beds as it is.” Jim Crombie, chief officer of acute services at NHS Lothian, said: “Board ­members were presented with a range of options for best delivering the board’s vision and corporate objectives within the financial allocation likely to be available to us next year.

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“Although numbers of possible bed reductions have not been finalised, we will be seeking to deliver the NHS Scotland vision of supporting more people to live at home, or in homely settings. That means a reduced reliance on acute and other inpatient services.”

An SNP spokesman said: “The budget available to NHS Lothian has reached a record high of £1.3 billion – a 50 per cent increase since the SNP came to office.”