Scotland politics

MSPs clash over Monklands hospital site

Monklands Hospital
Image caption Scottish Labour wants the hospital to remain within the Monklands community

MSPs have clashed over where a new Monklands Hospital should be built.

A panel has recommended NHS Lanarkshire use a new location at Gartcosh, but this has been met with opposition.

Scottish Labour want the hospital to be rebuilt at its existing location, and put forward a motion at Holyrood to "keep the Monklands in Monklands".

Ministers succeeded in amending the motion to say only that the new site should "take full account of the views of patients", and MSPs backed this.

NHS Lanarkshire board members will decide on a preferred option next month, with final approval needed from the Scottish government.

An NHS Lanarkshire consultation on the replacement or refurbishment of the hospital closed last week.

A panel - which included patients, staff and partners such as the Scottish Ambulance Service - determined that a new hospital in Gartcosh was the leading option.

But MSPs across the chamber were strongly critical of the consultation process, which many said was "flawed" and which local member Alex Neil said was "economical with the truth".

Image caption Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard called on the government to step in

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: "It is true that the people of Lanarkshire have been informed, but they have been neither meaningfully engaged nor genuinely consulted.

"And I would go further: there has been nothing less than a cynical attempt to railroad through the board's preferred option of closing the Monklands Hospital and relocating its services to a new site in the village of Gartcosh in the teeth of widespread public opposition."

The central Scotland MSP said that "the time has come for the government to swiftly and directly intervene", saying it would be a "great injustice" and a "grave error" to move the hospital.

Responding for the government, mental health minister Clare Haughey said that no final decision had been taken by NHS Lanarkshire about the hospital's future location.

She said concerns about the Gartcosh proposal had been "noted", and said the health board would "rigorously evaluate" all options before making a choice.

Her amendment to Labour's motion - deleting the party's proposal and replacing it with a statement welcoming redevelopment plans and stating that any new location "must take full account of the view of patients" - was passed by 94 votes to 26.

Labour's proposals met a mixed reaction from other parties and backbenchers.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said he hoped that NHS Lanarkshire would be "listening closely" to the debate.

He said: "We need to get the location of the new Monklands right, and above all make sure that the needs and interests of all the people of Lanarkshire are put at the heart of this decision."

The Scottish Lib Dems sided with Labour, with Alex Cole-Hamilton calling the service redesign "fundamentally flawed".

But the Scottish Greens backed the government, joining together with the Tories to help SNP members pass Ms Haughey's amendment.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone said it would be "unacceptable" if services were "downgraded in any way", but said she wanted to wait for the publication of consultation responses before making a decision.

She said parliament must not "rush past" this part of the process, asking members to wait for a "clearer, more detailed view".

Mr Neil meanwhile said moving the hospital to Gartcosh would be a "stupid decision" and "the wrong thing to do".

But he accused Labour of "trying to face both ways" on the topic, instead urging the government to set up an independent review of the process.

Image caption Alex Neil, who has the hospital in his constituency, said moving to Gartcosh would be a "stupid decision"

Monklands Hospital has been a political issue in the past, with a bitter fight over its accident and emergency unit in 2007.

The then health secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, reversed the previous Labour government's decision to close the A&E unit at the hospital, with her successor - Mr Neil - also campaigning to keep it open.

A Scottish government spokesman said in a statement: "The Scottish government welcomes the development of plans to refurbish or replace University Hospital Monklands.

"The new hospital will provide modern health facilities and a range of specialist services for patients across Lanarkshire, as well as continue to be the local hospital for patients living within the Monklands catchment area.

The statement added: "A consultation from the board on the site for the hospital closed earlier this month, and we believe that any decision on the location for the new hospital must, as a priority, help to reduce health inequalities.

"We are also clear that it is our expectation that any decision on the new hospital should take full account of the views of the patients who will be served by the new hospital, as well as other key factors such as accessibility, transport links, travel times, and the best return to the NHS in terms of patient care."

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