Stracathro campaigners fear the Angus hospital may suffer another blow under a surgical services proposal which could leave some patients facing a trip to Perth.
The latest in a series of consultation events over the change proposals will take place at Stracathro on Wednesday but fears have emerged the plan is a fait accompli that will further erode the facility’s future.
The community is already awaiting the outcome of a mental health services review which could signal closure of the hospital’s Mulberry adult psychiatry unit.
Health chiefs say they need to change the delivery of surgical services as a result of a range of factors, including an ageing population with multiple and long-term conditions, rising costs and staff shortages.
The shake-up has been defended as a means of maximising theatre use at the Angus facility.
Unscheduled surgery – cases such as gall bladder or appendix removal – would continue to see Angus patients dealt with at Ninewells.
Greater numbers of elective, or scheduled surgery cases would be sent to Perth Royal Infirmary, with day case and minor elective surgery increasing at Stracathro.
Consultation documents have highlighted the increasing numbers of Perth and Kinross patients being treated closer to home, and Angus residents have been urged to make their voice heard at the consultation event.
“This is a vital part of the surgery services required within Angus, but if more cases are going to Perth that is going to involve Angus people in a 120-mile round trip,” said one volunteer.
“For a nine o’clock appointment that could mean a 6.30am start.
“Ninewells and Perth seem to be getting a lot out of this proposal, with not much for Angus and people need to know what is happening.
“It has all been very much under the radar, even for groups like us who operate a very busy rota of volunteer drivers who take patients to and from Stracathro appointments.
“The Friends of Stracathro have raised thousands of pounds to provide the hospital with state of the art equipment for patients there and I feel that this is a fait accompli which will not be good news for Angus.”
Professor Peter Stonebridge, NHS Tayside Associate Medical Director for Surgery, said, “We are proposing changes to where some patients will have their surgery to ensure that everyone in Tayside can access the most appropriate facilities for their treatment.
“Patients in Angus have accessed unscheduled surgical services at Ninewells for many years and this will not change under the proposed option.
“Our aim is to actually increase the number of operations we carry out at Stracathro to make the best use of our excellent theatre facilities there.
“Our consultation is in full swing and we would encourage all services users, carers, staff, interested stakeholders and members of the public to get involved.
“This programme includes staff and public engagement sessions, where people will have the opportunity to share their views and give feedback on the proposals for Shaping Surgical Services.”