Thursday, February 18, 1999 Published at 18:32 GMT
Doctors want inquiry into superhospital
The new hospital will serve the Edinburgh area
Doctors' leaders have called for an inquiry into bed provision at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, which is being built under the government's private finance initiative.
The new £200m hospital could become the biggest in the western world. It will replace the Victorian era Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and two other hospitals.
But a poll conducted by the Edinburgh Evening News found that eight out of 10 local GPs fear the new hospital will not have the capacity to effectively serve the people of Edinburgh.
GPs said they were increasingly worried that the new hospital will neither have enough beds nor sufficient staff.
They fear that the burden of looking after patients will fall instead on primary care.
Planning gone badly wrong
Chairman of BMA Scottish Council, Mr Arthur Morris, said: "This latest poll, which corroborates the reports we have heard, shows that 80% of GPs don't believe the new ERI has enough beds.
"This is yet more evidence that something has gone badly wrong in the planning of the new hospital.
"The medical profession is increasingly concerned that facilities at the new ERI are going to be insufficient and call for an in-depth inquiry, open to public scrutiny to determine what facilities are required.
"This will determine if clinicians signed up to the new hospital under pressure to get the building started."
Dr Morris said GPs were in the front line of medical care and were acutely aware that bed shortages would translate into misery for thousands of their patients.
"We cannot wait until the hospital opens in 2003 to discover it does not have enough beds.
"We must take a fresh look at this and, we believe, that if the Health Board cannot open its inquiry to public scrutiny, then a formal inquiry by the Scottish Select Committee should now examine the issue."
However, a spokesman for the Scottish Office said: "The medical profession decided the number of beds required themselves. They were not imposed.
"The number has been discussed between the health board, the trusts and the medical committees in Edinburgh."
The new hospital will have 870 beds, but it is expected to have just five opthamology beds, compared with the 24 that now exist in the hospitals marked for closure, and just three dermatology beds, compared to the 41 that exist now.
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.