Jacquie raises concerns over future of health services

On 19th May multiple fire crews attended a fire at the former Edenhall Hospital. Once a busy NHS facility with specialist services like an obesity ward, the hospital was closed in 2010 and services centralised at the Musselburgh Care Treatment Centre.

The site was earmarked for housing and has been marketed since 2016. A Planning application from Stewart Milne was withdrawn in 2019. That company has since gone bust. The buildings and land now lie abandoned and are vulnerable to vandalism whilst their future is unknown. Elsewhere, East Fortune Hospital site lies derelict and Herdmanflat Hospital is the topic of contentious ELC planning proposals for housing with the community trying to save its valued greenspace.

Will Belhaven Hospital and its wider site face a similar festering future? NHS Lothian have not communicated with the community on future plans and the Constituency MSP has not arranged promised community meetings. This is unlike 2009 when community outrage offset a previous closure proposal and the promise was made that the site would not close until new facilities were in place. A promise repeatedly made over the years. Work is currently ongoing on options for the care of older people. The Steering Group was told that no changes would be made to existing services until the work had concluded and, in consultation ,the residents of Dunbar and East Linton Ward had clearly said that, although they may wish to stay at home as long as possible, the NHS beds, Blossom House Care Home and other services provided at Belhaven should remain.

The decisions made by East Lothian IJB were at a closed meeting only available online to those who could get the link. At a preceding Integrated Impact Assessment meeting concerns had been raised about the negative community impact of any closure. The IJB meeting did not allow any community representation unlike those in 2018 when the withdrawal of Minor Injuries, the closure of ward 2 and the proposals for replacement of facilities by extra care housing were on the table. The last noted meeting in December 2018 agreed to co-production with the community on the future of Belhaven.

The IJB decision was based on the need to make spending cuts due to the financial pressures on the IJB and was part of a package. It was saddening that fires by youths in the hospital grounds in early March were part of the rationale for closure.

The closure was agreed despite major spending on Belhaven to upgrade facilities for a community staff hub and on remedial works following the discovery of legionella in 2022. Ward 3 was yet to reopen. By FOI I found that spending was almost £1 million. Beyond spending on the buildings there has been much investment by the voluntary sector in Belhaven Community Garden, a growing space but also well used for therapeutic gardening opportunities for those with mental health and disability support needs and as a community green lung. What a waste!

The closure is short sighted. The services are still needed. Without Belhaven, Dunbar will only have 48 private beds at Lammermuir House. There will only be council beds in Tranent which is difficult to get to from Dunbar let alone the rural villages.

The closure will add to bed blocking as care home beds and care packages are so difficult to access in Dunbar and East Linton ward, especially in the villages south off the A1. That blocking will impact on the centralised hospitals in Haddington and Edinburgh and thus on the front door at A and E. NHS Lothian tell people not to go to A and E but with no A and E or Minor Injuries service in the county East Lothian residents have no other option.

I was at Scottish Liberal Democrat conference this weekend and took part in debates on the National Care Service and the hollowing out of NHS services in rural communities. Similar concerns about centralising of services and the lack of funding for care homes and downstream NHS beds were expressed from across Scotland. Delayed discharges are on the increase. Elsewhere, its noted that Liberton Hospital ,where I worked as a Social Worker, was due to close in 2016 but is still open for delayed discharges. City of Edinburgh Council are proposing to reopen Drumbrae Care Home.

I wrote with concerns to the Health Minister, Neil Gray. The response was that he could not intervene in NHS Lothian decisions. However, he, the First Minister and Scottish Government could facilitate the scrapping of the much delayed and overbudget National Care Service which even in a cut back form may cost around £1 billion. It is opposed by unions, COSLA, BASW the social work professional body of which I am a member and many others. That money would be better used on funding for the front line services that are needed NOW. It is needed to retain the Belhaven site for Health and Social Care use and its many services rather than mothballing them and allowing them to rot and be vulnerable to arson like Edenhall.

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