PEOPLE in Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven have set out their ground rules as they prepare for the next step in the fight for local health services.

Around 300 people attended public meetings in Dumbarton and Helensburgh last week to call on NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to retain many services, and reinstate others, at the Vale of Leven Hospital.

The meetings were organised by the Hospitalwatch campaign group and local MSP Jackie Baillie in response to the health board’s ongoing redesign of health services across Greater Glasgow and Clyde under the ‘Moving Forward Together’ banner.

Seven ‘indicative votes’ were held at both events – and an additional one in Helensburgh – to assess what members of the public want to see from the Vale in the future.

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All were backed unanimously, with the exception of one person at the Dumbarton meeting who voted against the proposal to restore the ‘Vision for the Vale’ set out by the health board in 2008 when Nicola Sturgeon was Scotland’s health secretary.

The seven votes held at both meetings were:

• To retain all existing cancer services at the Vale of Leven Hospital and build on them where possible.

• To utilise the capacity for elective surgery at the Vale, supported by a team of anaesthetists, ensuring that they travel from other Greater Glasgow and Clyde hospitals to support the Vale where needed.

• To retain the medical assessment unit in line with the minor injuries unit as it currently stands.

• To have a palliative care unit at the Vale.

• To have the Vision for the Vale restored, including a fully functioning ‘out of hours’ service.

• To have more investment in the Vale of Leven Hospital.

• To increase access to health services north of the river for people who live in the Vale’s catchment area, with the starting point being to ensure that as many services are available at the Vale as possible.

The additional vote at Helensburgh was to have the ‘out of hours’ GP service at the Vale run by the hospital itself and not by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, in line with the operation of the hospital’s minor injuries unit and medical assessment unit.

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After the meetings Ms Baillie said: “I was delighted to see such a big turnout of local people.

"It is so important that the health board know what is important to people in our community when they make decisions about our local services.

“It is clear that people value the services, and staff, at the Vale of Leven Hospital.

“We know that the service at the hospital is second-to-none, and the convenience of having services locally takes away the possibility of adding more stress to an already difficult time, by travelling to a hospital up to an hour away.

“I will be writing to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to summarise the wishes of the community.

“The votes taken by the local community represent a clear set of recommendations that must now be delivered by the health board and service retained at the Vale.”

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A spokesman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “We are sorry that there is frustration about the lack of specific proposals for the future delivery of healthcare in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

"We did engage with the public, politicians and staff on our overall strategy – Moving Forward Together – which was approved last year and sets out our overall approach to the future of health and social care, which sees patients being supported to live independently for as long as possible.

“When people need care, our aim is to deliver this wherever possible in the community supported by integrated health and social care services.

“We are now in the next stage of working with local communities to develop specific cases for change which will enable us to deliver this commitment.

“It is too early to know the detail of specific changes that will be introduced as this is a long term strategy and at this time our engagement is focussed on listening to our patients, the public and our staff to hear what is important to them.

“It is important to reiterate that our chairman has confirmed on a number of occasions our commitment to the long term future of the Vale of Leven Hospital, which, as recently as last week, was reaffirmed by our announcement of investment in new diagnostic equipment for the hospital.”