Last week, health minister Nicola Sturgeon was given another role,piloting the Referendum bill. her Scottish Nationalist colleague Airdrie and Coatbridge MSP Alex Neil has replaced her.
In May, campaigners from Cumbernauld Community Forum travelled to the Scottish Parliament to present Miss Sturgeon with a petition bearing 3,000 signatures, in a last ditch-bid to see the radiology unit transferred back from Monklands Hospital to its original base at Central Health Centre. They became disenchanted when Miss Sturgeon did not get back to them amidst claims she had given every assurance she would do so – although she did discuss their concerns with top brass at NHS Lanarkshire.
Now it has emerged that Mr Neil does not intend to make any changes to the set up – and is in fact of the view that locals will benefit from it in the long term.
A Scottish Goverment said: “We confirmed in August 2011 that NHS Lanarkshire’s radiology proposals did not constitute major service change under the terms of the relevant national guidance. Nicola Sturgeon, the then Cabinet Secretary therefore asked the Board to take their plans forward in liaison with the Scottish Health Council to ensure the continued, appropriate engagement with local stakeholders. While Mr Neil appreciates the strength of feeling expressed by local people it would not be in the best interests of patients to change decisions that have already been implemented.
“The changes will result in benefits to patients as they will receive their results more quickly and will be able to get any further tests required and start treatment at the earliest opportunity. Mr Neil would of course want to hear of any concerns which local people have,” he added.
However, those words have only served to infuriate members of the forum, who argue that some of Cumbernauld’s senior citizens are forgoing potentially life-saving x-rays because they are unable to travel to Monklands.
Irate chairman Billy Lees said: “Nicola Sturgeon wasn’t even courteous enough to reply to us in the first place and I think Alex Neil should be looking at the facts here.
“Is he aware of how little consultation there was with the public and how difficult it is for people in their 70s and 80s to get the hospital when there is only one bus per hour? These are some of the most vulnerable people in Cumbernauld!
“This is an absolute disgrace and I have said it all along.”