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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 September, 2004, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
Health reforms 'not set in stone'
Hospital - generic
Hospital reforms are proving controversial
The health minister has insisted that reforms of hospital provision in Scotland are not set in stone.

The Scottish Executive is under increasing pressure from campaigners to intervene to save threatened services.

Health boards are seeking to make major efficiency savings but most of the proposals are out to consultation.

Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm has stressed that he had the power to reject reorganisations as well as to accept them.

He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "Not only can I say no at the end of the process but obviously I can influence the way that boards conduct their reviews while they're ongoing."

The minister stressed that boards must always be aware that they are not taking decisions in isolation as they can have effects elsewhere.

"A clear message I've been sending out recently is that boards work across health board boundaries."

Malcolm Chisholm
I can influence the process as it is going on and I can also say no at the end
Malcolm Chisholm
Health Minister
Across the country a number of hospital units are facing closure, including accident and emergency at Stobhill and Vale of Leven Hospitals and maternity services at Caithness General Hospital.

Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton, is campaigning against changes in provision at the Vale of Leven in Alexandria.

Ms Baillie said: "What we're seeing is people being asked to travel for two-and-a-half hours to get to a hospital in Paisley, bypassing five major hospitals in Glasgow as they go - now that's nonsense."

She called for more "joined-up thinking", a sentiment echoed by fellow Labour backbencher Des McNulty.

The Clydebank and Milngavie MSP said: "We need a more regional approach, rather than it being done entirely by local health boards, each in their own relatively restricted area."

Glasgow Kelvin MSP Pauline McNeill warned that the executive was leaving local communities behind.

Transparency or fairness

She said: "The decision that's upset me the most is Greater Glasgow's decision to close the Queen Mother's, I don't believe there's been transparency or fairness in the process and I think as a result of that it's ended in the wrong decision.

"It's those kind of things that have upset the public and it's now I think a matter for politicians because it's time for more political control of the health service."

Mr Chisholm welcomed the comments and insisted he was heeding points being raised from within his own party.

Protesters outside the Scottish Parliament
Protests have gone all the way to the Scottish Parliament
"Obviously they're expressing the concerns of their local constituents and I'm listening very clearly to them," he said.

"A few months ago I sent back the Argyll and Clyde maternity proposals and asked them to do further work with Glasgow on the cross boundary issues and ensuring patients in Argyll and Clyde have the choice of going to Glasgow.

"So I can influence the process as it is going on and I can also say no at the end."

As more than 100 protesters gathered at Holyrood on Wednesday, new Scottish National Party deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon also called for a "clear national strategy" on health.

The minister said he had set up a group to look at the issues in a national context, which is due to deliver a national framework over the winter.

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