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Tuesday, June 30, 1998 Published at 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK


Doctors fear bed shortage at superhospital

Edinburgh's new superhospital will be 'state of the art'

The BBC's Richard Hannaford on the Scottish superhospital debate
Work is expected to begin soon on what could be the biggest hospital in the Western world, despite doctors' fears that it may not have enough beds to meet patient demand.

Lothian Health Board is to close the Victorian era Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and two other hospitals and open a new £200m hospital three miles south of the city centre. Work is expected to be completed in around five years' time.

The health board says the new Edinburgh Royal Infirmary will be "state of the art" and that the old ones are not appropriate for modern health care.

"It will be a world class hospital which I believe the citizens of Edinburgh will be proud of," said John Owens of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Too few beds?

The new hospital will have 870 beds, but doctors fear this will not be enough.

[ image: Dr Brian Potter fears there will not be enough beds]
Dr Brian Potter fears there will not be enough beds
Dr Brian Potter of the British Medical Association says the new hospital is expected to have just five opthamology beds, compared with the 24 that now exist in the hospitals marked for closure. It will have just three dermatology beds, compared to the 41 that exist now.

"We may not need as many, but we cannot do with losing this amount," said Dr Potter.

There are also concerns that the hospital is to be built and owned by a private consortium. The NHS will have a 30-year lease.

Democratic scrutiny

The Scottish National Party says it is disturbed that the government has decided to go ahead with such long-term health plans less than a year before the Scottish Parliament is set up.

The Parliament will take over responsibility for Scotland's health.

SNP MP John Swinney said: "The government seemed to have such hunger for democratic scrutiny in Scotland that I think it is bizarre that it is pursuing this line of approach so close to the establishment of the Parliament."

Contracts on the new hospital are expected to be exchanged in the next month and work can then begin.

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