Stracathro Hospital is set to be closed and sold “as Judas sold Jesus” to help reduce NHS Tayside’s debts, a former Angus provost has claimed.
Former civic head Ruth Leslie Melville said she has been informed of the plans from an “impeccable” source within the health service.
When the sensational claim was put to NHS Tayside, the health board said it “remained committed” to Stracathro.
However, it added that services offered by all its facilities were currently under review.
Despite fierce opposition, NHS Tayside decided to close the Mulberry mental health unit, which sits within Stracathro’s grounds, earlier this year.
Mrs Leslie Melville said: “My well-placed source is convinced Stracathro Hospital is to close and is very concerned for the people of Angus and the Mearns.
“As usual, a decision has been taken and then they will go out to consultation.
“I want to break the news because I think we have a right to be told what’s happening.
“In my opinion it’s clear why the health board would be considering closing the hospital considering their financial mess – Stracathro is a prime development site, sitting in beautiful grounds 35 miles from Aberdeen and 35 miles from Dundee.
“I fear we are going to be sold, as Judas sold Jesus, for 30 pieces of silver.”
Mrs Leslie-Melville led a successful campaign to retain the hospital when it was threatened with closure 20 years ago after emergency general surgery was moved to Ninewells Hospital.
She subsequently founded the Friends of Stracathro fundraising group and warned that people in the Angus and Mearns would not lie down and let the facility close without a fight.
Responding to the claims, NHS Tayside medical director, operational unit, Professor Peter Stonebridge said: “We remain committed to continuing to deliver a range of services from the Stracathro site.
“Angus Health and Social Care Partnership is driving improvement as part of the Angus Care Model, which plans to deliver medicine for the elderly, psychiatry of old age services and stroke rehabilitation care from the Stracathro site.”
He said clinicians in NHS Tayside are leading Transforming Tayside, a programme examining how “safe and sustainable” health and care services can be built and delivered more effectively.
He added: “As part of Transforming Tayside, healthcare professionals are working in partnership with our local Integration Joint Boards on the development of an integrated clinical strategy to support and develop health and care services for the local population for the next five to 10 years.
“Services currently provided across Tayside, including those in Stracathro Hospital, are being looked at as part of these plans to ensure the continued delivery of high-quality, safe and effective person-centred care.”
Mrs Leslie-Melville described the statement as “official-speak”.
“Experience and history prove that this sort of statement is taken with a huge pinch of salt,” she added.
“They are trying to keep everyone calm and lull people into a sense of security. We’ve been there and got the T-shirt.
“I’m afraid that my T-shirt has long since worn out.”
Stracathro Hospital doesn’t have an accident and emergency facility, but offers elective surgery and outpatient clinics for people in Angus and the Mearns.