In March, following fire raising in the grounds, the Fire Service requested immediate evacuation of residents from Blossom House Care Home after an unannounced inspection. Return was pending work to ensure safer evacuation procedures. This move has been upsetting for many of the frail residents. Rumours soon abounded in the community that Belhaven Hospital had closed but assurances were given that the move was temporary and residents would be able to return HOME.

Fast forward to 28th March and the On Line Integrated Joint Board Budget Setting meeting. Members voted to close the entire Belhaven site including Blossom House, Ward 2 used as a community staff and Vaccination Hub, Ward 3 NHS beds and the area used by Belhaven Community Garden which has long been used as both a community growing space and for therapeutic activities for those with disabilities or mental health support needs. It is a space rich in biodiversity and enjoyed by the community, hospital staff and residents.

Reasons given for closure include the old buildings not being fit for purpose and the isolation of the site, particularly following the fire incidents. This is despite a considerable sum being spent since August 2022 on the remedial work to sort the water system – work that has only just been completed.

Finance is clearly a factor here. Belhaven has seen limited investment whilst NHS Lothian spends millions on the Contract with Consort to lease the Royal Infirmary. The Scottish Government blame Westminster but it is the Scottish Government who have been ploughing millions into much delayed proposals for a National Care Service. ELC have chosen to invest £5 million in repairs to the Loch Centre roof whilst closing care homes.

The closure highlights a history of broken promises on the future of Belhaven. In 2009 closure was averted and Health Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, promised new facilities. A new unit was one of 3 proposed in the Older People Strategy of 2010 – a strategy scrapped by the new ELC Administration in 2012. NHS Managers including David Small and Alison McDonald promised that Belhaven would remain open until new facilities were in place. In 2015 Health Minister (now Finance Minister and Deputy First Minister) refused monies to keep ward 2 open because new facilities were planned. In December 2018, then IJB Chair Peter Murray promised co production with communities when it was made clear that there was a desire to retain NHS and care home beds when extra care housing was seen as a solution for the care of older people. In 2020 discussions were ongoing with Hub SE about new build.

The closure will have a major impact on Dunbar and East Linton Ward. In the short term, the residents of Blossom House are losing their home. In some cases, relatives have fought to bring them to Belhaven to be close by. The Integrated Impact Assessment (IIA)suggests that they will be helped to find alternatives. In Dunbar there are only 48 beds at private Lammermuir House. There are fewer beds than 20 years ago. Other care homes are not easy to get to without a car due to poor public transport. It is the same for NHS beds – those in Haddington and Edinburgh are not easy to get to, especially from the Lammermuir villages. Also affected are the staff, many of whom have worked at Belhaven for a long time.

The closure will impact on bed blocking in the acute NHS sector. The IIA report says people want to stay at home as long as possible. However, care packages can be difficult to access, especially in the rural parts of the Ward. Care packages do not give overnight care and they are not sufficient for those who need 24 hour support, especially for those with dementia care needs. Again, care home places are needed. The recent Local Place Plan work in Dunbar and West Barns has shown a desire to retain Belhaven for Health and Social Care needs. In 2010 I told Shona Robison that the Reshaping the Balance of Care Policy would fail if NHS and Care Home beds closed without sufficient community services. In 2024 delayed discharge figures are increasing. I was right.

It is important that the community anger about the closure is listened to. In 2009 there was a rethink. It is vital that the Belhaven site is retained for Health and Social Care purposes. In the meantime, NHS Lothian will have to pay to keep the site secure. It would be a shame for it to fester like Edenhall when the facilities remain needed as the population of older people in Dunbar and East Linton Ward is increasing.

Jacquie Bell speaking at conference
Jacquie Bell speaking during the 40 new hospitals debate at York 24 conference

This website uses cookies

Like most websites, this site uses cookies. Some are required to make it work, while others are used for statistical or marketing purposes. If you choose not to allow cookies some features may not be available, such as content from other websites. Please read our Cookie Policy for more information.

Essential cookies enable basic functions and are necessary for the website to function properly.
Statistics cookies collect information anonymously. This information helps us to understand how our visitors use our website.
Marketing cookies are used by third parties or publishers to display personalized advertisements. They do this by tracking visitors across websites.