Lothian health bosses have earmarked more than 200 hospital beds for closure as part of a “recovery plan”.
Details were revealed in a document entitled “Bridging the Gap”.
The document was composed by the finance director of one of the biggest health boards in Scotland.
Hospitals are identified as “business units” in the document, with a total of 224 beds apparently at “risk” of being eliminated from the health service in the next twelve months.
Western General Hospital, the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, and St John’s hospital in Livingston are all affected by the decision.
In addition, a couple of beds will also be removed from diagnostics, anaesthetics and critical care services across the Lothian area.
Critics suggest that the scheme fundamentally contradicts the previous statements of the Scottish government.
The Holyrood authority had previously pledged to protect the NHS budget, with the SNP stating that it would “ensure frontline spending continues to increase in real terms in each year of the next parliament” if the party is re-elected on 5th May.
The Labour Lothian candidate Sarah Boyack opined that bed closures in the nation are indicative of the failing of the SNP to satisfactorily fund the health service in Scotland.
Boyack also claimed that the Scottish National Party had fundamentally failed to deliver pledges that were key manifesto commitments relating to the protection of health services.
“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,” Boyack stated.
Margaret Watt, of the Scotland Patients Association, agreed with the position of Boyack, deeming the cuts to be wholly unacceptable, And stating that she was “concerned as we’re short of hospital beds as it is.”
Meanwhile, Jim Crombie, chief officer of acute services at NHS Lothian, defended the decision, and suggested that while it may not be ideal it was the most preferable option of those available.
“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. 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 commented that the party had in fact increased the funding of the NHS since coming to power, and that it intended to extend this process in the foreseeable future.
“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,” a spokesperson remarked.