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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 May 2007, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Hospital downgrade to be reviewed
Vale of Leven Hospital
Services at the hospital in Alexandria have been under threat for years
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has said there will be an independent review of plans to downgrade services at the Vale of Leven Hospital.

Ms Sturgeon made the announcement two days after the health board said some emergency procedures would be ended at the West Dunbartonshire hospital.

As part of their election manifesto the SNP promised to keep services local.

The move is seen as the first real test for the SNP executive which has vowed to fight centralisation.

Vale of Leven maternity unit closed in October 2002 and its accident and emergency unit was shut down two months later.

Quite often the consultation has been seen by members of the public as a sham
Nicola Sturgeon
Health Secretary

Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board announced on Friday that anaesthetics and unscheduled health care would also have to go at the hospital.

The health secretary said that decisions to cut services had been viewed with scepticism by the general public.

She said: "Before now health boards have come up with proposals and put them straight out to consultation.

"Quite often the consultation has been seen by members of the public as a sham because the proposals were fashioned in such a way to get the decision that the health board wanted.

"What we want to do is insert another part of the process so that the proposals, before they go out to consultation, are independently examined so that there is some confidence that the range of proposals being put to the public for consultation are genuine."

More credibility

The secretary's plans were given a cautious welcome by Dr Brian Williams of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons who said future decisions to downgrade may have more credibility if they have been independently verified.

He said: "It may appear bureaucratic but on the other hand if it was done quickly and properly it might produce checks and balances to try and avoid what might be seen as vested interests in the health boards.

"And if there was some independent review of closures or downgrading, it will be seen to be more credible."

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