THE Vale of Leven Hospital is spending more than £50,000 a year sending patient samples to Paisley’s Royal Alexandra Hospital via taxi, figures have revealed. 

The figures, released as part of a freedom of information request by a Bonhill resident, detail the establishment’s costly ventures to transport blood and other samples to the RAH laboratory for investigation.

The Reporter can reveal transportation of bloods cost £25,155.69 from January 2016 to January 2017 – the most expensive month being December which saw £4.645.81 spent. 

Samples cost another £24,879.85 in taxi fares to make the journey from the Vale to Paisley, bringing the total to £50,035.54. 

The Reporter understands the practice has been in place for a number of years, however, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde failed to confirm this. 

Councillor Jonathan McColl, leader of the SNP opposition, said: “I’m concerned by anecdotal evidence that suggests this is happening more often than the NHS are telling us.

“We need our health board representative to do some digging to find out what’s really going on before we can decide how to resolve the situation.”

A spokesman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “Taxis are only used for the emergency transportation of blood and samples. 

“We have a regular courier service that collects samples daily to be transferred from the Vale of Leven to the RAH.” 

Separate figures, which were shared by Dumbarton’s MSP Jackie Baillie, also revealed the number of beds at the hospital had been slashed by 37 per cent since 2009, staff numbers have fallen from 887 to 615 over the last nine years and 714 clinics have been cancelled since 2014.

Nursing and midwifery staff have also been reduced by 113 workers, a reduction of 28 per cent. 

Councillor Michelle McGinty, who has submitted a motion at next week’s full council meeting in support of the Vale, said the figures show the hospital has been “hammered” by cuts.

She said: “The Vision for the Vale was supposed to protect our local health services but it has not delivered on its promises. 

“I hope all local councillors will back my motion at the council meeting next week and send a strong message to the health board and the Scottish Government that West Dunbartonshire is united against the cuts at the Vale of Leven Hospital.

“This is a direct result of the health board’s decision to centralise the laboratories in Paisley a few years ago. Labour warned at the time that this would end up costing even more money and see local patients and doctors waiting around for the results from important tests.

“It also comes on top of the health board’s recent admission that it spends £1,500 a week on private cabs for patients. 

“Local NHS staff and patients will be astonished to learn that exorbitant sums of money are being spent on taxis shipping samples and patients back and forth to Paisley while local services are under threat at the VOL.”

Ms Baillie said: “I welcomed the Vision for the Vale when it was launched because it was hailed as a landmark agreement which would provide stability for our local services. Yet time and time again the promises made to our local community have been broken and the Vision has failed to live up to expectations. 

“The Vale has lost the equivalent of 17 full-time nurses and 10 beds in the last year alone following the closure of ward six. 

“Then there’s the provision of clinics, which was a key commitment in the Vision, but hundreds of cancellations in recent years have seen local patients turned away.”

In response, a spokesman for the health board said: “The figures provided for medical staff in 2017 (15) are not directly comparable with previous years as this figure reflects the substantive Vale of Leven based medical staff. In past years the figure has included both these staff and also those based at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Paisley who deliver clinics and other activity within the Vale of Leven but where the majority of their time is spent at the RAH.

“We have verified that the position described for 2017 reflects those staff substantively employed at the Vale of Leven. The figures reflect the number of staff in post at specific points in time in each year and therefore would not take account of vacancies. 

“The figures presented for nursing and midwifery for 2016 reflect the position prior to the redesign of services affecting ward 6. 

“The 2017 figures reflect where staff have been redeployed to other suitable positions within NHSGCC for example at RAH, or Inverclyde Royal Hospital.”