New documents released under Freedom of Information reveal that health board officials and the SNP Government worked together on plans to close ward 6 at the Vale of Leven Hospital.
The papers obtained by Jackie Baillie also show that health board lied about its plans to close the ward last year while spin doctors anguished over how to bury the bad news about the closure of Ward 6.
The documents reveal that:
- The SNP Government knew about the closure on 24th November 2015, more than 3 weeks before the announcement on 16th December – but failed to intervene. Instead, Scottish Government officials asked the health board for a briefing to defend the closure in case SNP Ministers were challenged in the Scottish Parliament. The SNP’s over promotedHealth Secretary, Shona Robison, had refused to answer Jackie Baillie’s earlier question about when she was told about the closure.
- The health board started work on proposals to close Ward 6 in July 2015 – despite telling Jackie Baillie in October 2015 that it had ‘no plans’ for closure. The report from last summer contained a number of options, including keeping the ward open, but officials recommended closure in order to release ‘efficiency savings’.
- The health board promised staff displaced by the closure that they could continue working locally despite knowing that it might not be possible. One official callously admits in an email that this ‘might not be fulfilled but it is only an aim so we should be able to say it’.
This is how politicians, public servants [?] and spinners do what the rest of us call ‘lying’.
Jackie Baillie has also pointed out that, while the SNP’s local candidate for next month’s Scottish Parliament elections has remained silent on the ward closure, the leader of the SNP branch in Dumbarton Constituency told a local newspaper that people should ‘rejoice’ at the removal of the service. What he said was: ‘It should be a reason to rejoice that there is no need for Ward 6 as the advances in day surgery render it unnecessary.’ – a position we understand is challenged by Ms Baillie.
Jackie Baillie – who has been the area’s respected MSP, is again the Scottish Labour candidate on 5th May and is her party’s most formidable politician, says: ‘These documents blow a hole through the health board’s argument that the closure of Ward 6 would have no impact on staff and services at the Vale of Leven Hospital.
‘The SNP Government should apologise to local patients and staff for failing to ask a single question to challenge the health board’s plans or intervene to stop the closure.
‘It’s no surprise that the SNP Health Secretary refused to tell me when she first heard about the plans. The only thing her party cared about was how to defend the decision when asked about it in Parliament.
‘The health board clearly lied about their plans when I asked them about the future of the ward last Autumn.
‘They finally buried the bad news in the last week before Christmas after the health board’s spin doctors worked out how to minimise the damaging headlines – even going as far as to give a false promise to staff they knew they might not be able to keep.
‘This is a disgraceful way to treat staff and patients and local people deserve better.
‘Why has the SNP candidate remained silent while her party ‘rejoices’ at yet more cuts to the Vale? This area needs an MSP who will fight for local staff and patients, not one who will meekly follow the party line.’
Here is the collection of documents and emails his matter released to Jackie Baillie on 14th April 2016: FoI documents & emails released to Jackie Baillie 201604141439
From the Scottish Parliament’s Official Report, 28 January 2016
Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab): The cabinet secretary is quoted in my local press as saying that she did not know about and would not approve the proposed cuts at the Vale of Leven hospital. Given that statement, will she tell us whether she knew about the closure of ward 6 only in December? Was she notified of that by the health board?
Shona Robison: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde will inevitably introduce changes in the services that it provides. When those changes are major and significant, we expect the board to consult the community. As Jackie Baillie knows, boards adjust their services all the time; it would be unreasonable for them to do otherwise. However, as she rightly said, I have made clear to her and to the local community that the vision for the Vale, as developed by this Government after Jackie Baillie’s Government closed accident and emergency services there—[Interruption.]
The Presiding Officer: Order.
Shona Robison: Jackie Baillie’s Government was set to close the Vale of Leven hospital, and it was this Government that saved the hospital and delivered the vision for it. This Government will ensure that services such as emergency care continue at the Vale. Jackie Baillie would be better advised to listen to the reassurance that I have given, rather than continuing to generate fear and alarm in the local community. I am sure that the local community will benefit from that continuation and welcome that assurance.