Former health secretary claims NHS consultation ‘rigged’

A FORMER SNP Health Secretary has accused his local NHS board of running a “rigged” consultation to justify a controversial hospital closure.

Alex Neil told MSPs that NHS Lanarkshire had misled the public about its plans for the Monklands Hospital in his Airdrie & Shotts constituency.

The health board is consulting on moving the 40-year-old hospital to a new site five miles away at Gartcosh in neighbouring Coatbridge & Chryston.

Mr Neil described the board’s decision as “stupid”, telling MSPs: “No to Gartcosh.”

Mr Neil was first elected as the MSP in Airdrie & Shotts in 2011 after running on a campaign to save the A&E unit at Monklands.

Labour is now trying to turn the hospital issue against the Nationalists.

At Holyrood, it forced a vote on building a replacement hospital on the existing Monklands site, noting this was done for the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.

In response, the government said it welcomed plans to “refurbish or replace” Monklands, and said a new hospital would “continue to be the local hospital for the patients living in the Monklands’ catchment area”.

Mr Neill said the consultation before NHS Lanarkshire announced Gartcosh as its preferred option was unfair and dishonest.

He said the scoring system was “rigged to get the answer the senior people in the health board wanted.

“The information on which they scored was inaccurate, misleading, unbalanced and very often bordering on deliberately being economical with the truth.

“There is no way it can be described as a fair and objective exercise.”

Calling for an independent review of the consultation, he went on: “NHS Lanarkshire act as though they’re deaf. They’re not listening to the people. The people are telling them putting the new hospital in Gartcosh is the worst thing to do, and I agree with the people, and the evidence agrees with the people.

“This cannot be allowed to stand. It would be a betrayal of the people of the Monklands.”

He also accused Labour of hypocrisy, pointing out Hugh Gaffney, the Labour MP for Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill, had backed a move to Gartcosh.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said SNP ministers should “stop this closure before it is too late, before a great injustice is committed before a grave error is made”.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone said a “total rebuild” of the hospital was needed to “provide the high quality facilities people deserve”.

Mr Neil later voted for a vague government amendment, which was passed comfortably, rather than the Labour motion to retain Monklands hospital in Monklands.

Coatbridge SNP MSP Fulton MacGregor did likewise.

Mental health minister Clare Haughey, for the government, said she recognised the strength of feeling in Airdrie, and stressed no final decision had yet been taken.

But she noted current facilities at Monklands “don’t have the right lay out to ensure an ideal model of care in line with best modern clinical practice”.

She said the health board assured ministers it would carefully consider all responses to the consultation and “rigorously evaluate all the options” before making a final decision.

NHS Lanarkshire chief executive Calum Campbell said: “We welcome the fact there is cross-party agreement to build a new hospital to replace University Hospital Monklands.

Colin Lauder, NHS Lanarkshire director of planning, said the consultation was conducted in line with Scottish Government guidance, and scrutinised and validated by the Scottish Health Council and external agencies.

What’s your view? Are government guidelines for public consultation fit for purpose or do they allow organisations to influence the outcome to satisfy their own needs?  Share your views by emailing The Consultation Movement at: theconsultationmovement@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Wednesday 24 October 2018 in the Herald. The Consultation Movement cannot confirm the accuracy of this story or confirm that it presents a balanced view. If you feel this is inaccurate we would welcome your perspective and evidence that this is the case.

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