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Last Updated: Friday, 18 May 2007, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
Hospital cuts challenge for SNP
Vale of Leven Hospital
The Vale of Leven Hospital has been under threat for years
Plans to downgrade a major hospital in the west of Scotland have been unveiled by health officials.

The cuts at the Vale of Leven hospital in West Dunbartonshire have been announced by Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board.

The move comes as Scotland's new First Minister Alex Salmond said he was considering reversing what he called "bad decisions" to close hospitals.

The hospital in Alexandria has been under threat for several years.

On hold

The hospital's maternity unit closed in October 2002 and its accident and emergency unit was shut down two months later.

Plans to permanently downgrade the hospital were put on hold when Argyll and Clyde health board was abolished.

However, the health board that took over, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, has announced that anaesthetics and unscheduled medical care would also have to go.

It will be the first real test for the new SNP executive which has vowed to fight the centralisation of core hospital services.

Earlier Mr Salmond said: "If a bad decision has been made, it should be reversed and that's something we are looking at very closely at."

He added that the SNP might find "surprising" support from individual Labour MSPs who are among those campaigning to save hospitals.

Asked if his party had looked at the cost implications of reversing the closures, Mr Salmond said: "Obviously. And that's one of the announcements we hope to be making to parliament in the next few weeks."

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