NHS Lanarkshire has released details of a re-run consultation on the site of the new Monklands Hospital, with a cohort of Lanarkshire residents and healthcare staff invited to give their views remotely on three possible locations.
As part of the widely publicised Monklands Replacement Project (MRP), sites at Gartcosh, Glenmavis and Wester Moffat have been under consideration as options for replacing the existing University Hospital Monklands, situated close to Airdrie town centre, with a newly rebuilt, modern campus Monklands Hospital.
The driving force behind the project is the view that the present hospital is becoming unfit for purpose in terms of facilities, building infrastructure, dilapidation, financial maintenance and physical space.
The new consultation involves 400 identified individuals – consisting of members of the public and staff of NHS Lanarkshire who expressed interest in being involved in the process – assessing and scoring the three potential locations on a range of criteria, including travel times by road and public transport, access to NHS regional centres, site contamination and impact of patients from Glasgow attending the new hospital.
Each participant has been issued with a letter from NHS Lanarkshire inviting them to take part in a site-scoring survey either by post, telephone or online during July-August 2020. The exercise is being overseen by independent public engagement agency The Consultation Institute (tCI), with public safety in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic a central factor in the consultation’s format.
The scoring process and associated documentation have been developed with input from Healthcare Improvement Scotland (formerly Scottish Health Council), which supports the engagement of people and communities in shaping health and care services.
NHS Lanarkshire has stated that scores for each of the three potential hospital locations will be calculated using proportionate representation from geographical locations and staff groups, with members of the public making up that more than 75% of consultation panelists. Patients, patient representatives and carers living in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth will form 11% of the total scoring panel.
The latest announcement follows on from the result of an original scoring event hosted in March 2020 – which placed the site at Gartcosh with the highest score – being withdrawn after it was marred by technical equipment failure and insufficient numbers and variety of participants. Colin Lauder, Director of Property, Planning and Performance at NHS Lanarkshire, said:
“The 400 people being asked to participate in the consultation are all those members of the community and staff who either self-nominated to take part in the scoring process earlier this year or who indicated a preference to be further involved through a representative survey which was also undertaken.
“This process will provide a score for the non-financial benefits of the sites. NHS Lanarkshire will then undertake a process to assess the financial benefits by incorporating the overall project cost for each site.
“This will be published in a report on the scoring process to inform a two-week public feedback period after scoring.
“It’s important to stress that the outcome of scoring will not be a final decision on a hospital location.
“It will be only one factor which will be considered by NHS Lanarkshire’s Board, along with all of the other evidence collected during public and staff engagement, in identifying a preferred option for the new site.”
NHS Lanarkshire Board’s preferred option will be outlined in a recommendation made to Jeane Freeman, Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, who will make a final decision on the location of the new hospital.
The decision will directly affect all citizens of Cumbernauld, who for many years have accessed University Hospital Monklands as their nearest infirmary containing an Accident and Emergency Department.
Distance and public transport links to local hospitals have been contentious issues for people living in Cumbernauld for a long time. The current Monklands Hospital site is situated about eight miles from Cumbernauld town centre, with alternative options Forth Valley Royal Hospital and Glasgow Royal Infirmary more than 10 miles away.
If constructed in Glenmavis or Gartcosh, the new hospital campus will geographically be slightly closer for Cumbernauld citizens, however many of the perceived existing issues will remain unless efficient public transport links from Cumbernauld town centre to the hospital site are implemented.
Earlier in the consultation process (in February 2020), Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub hosted an independently-facilitated Community Discussion Event at Cornerstone House with a view to giving Cumbernauld citizens an opportunity to have their say on the location of the new hospital. Mary McNeil, Development Manager at Cornerstone House Centre, commented:
“Cornerstone House Centre, as a local Community Anchor Organisation, recognises the huge importance and potential implications of the decision on the relocation of University Hospital Monklands for citizens living in Greater Cumbernauld.
“We recognise that, rightly so, local people have strong views on this issue. That’s why Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub has sought in recent months to publish latest news and developments relating to the consultation, and will continue to do so over the coming period.
“From the recent announcement by NHS Lanarkshire, we can ascertain that the next opportunity for those not involved in the scoring process to have their say will be a two-week public feedback period after a scoring report is published, likely to be in September 2020 at the earliest.
“Information on this will be made available through Cornerstone House Centre’s website and social media channels as soon as it is made public.”
It is expected that the new hospital will cost £400 million to construct, after a previous option to rebuild on the existing Monklands Hospital site was ruled out due to cost and logistics.
The elongated consultation and decision-making process has ran far from smoothly, with the former steelworks site at Gartcosh first revealed as the front-running option two years ago following an initial health board options appraisal.
Thousands of subsequent petition signatures opposing the Gartcosh site option resulted in an independent review assigned by Scottish Government, leading to a second consultation process starting in January 2020. This included a new option of relocating at Wester Moffat.
Full public documentation and latest information updates in relation to Monklands Replacement Project can be accessed online by visiting www.monklands.scot.nhs.uk.
Meanwhile, a level of visiting will be reinstated for the majority of hospital inpatients across NHS Lanarkshire from Monday 13 July 2020, including those in University Hospital Monklands.
It is planned that hospital visitation will be restored through a staged approach in line with latest Scottish Government guidance in relation to lockdown measures. Inpatients will be asked to identify one designated visitor only in the first instance, with a number of visitor conditions to be adhered to in the interest of public safety.