Fifty demonstrators protested outside of Lightburn Hospital in Glasgow on Saturday 17 June to re-launch a campaign to prevent its closure. Lightburn is the last in-patient hospital in Glasgow’s East End. It provides rehabilitative care for elderly people suffering from strokes, dementia, Parkinson’s or similar illnesses. Each year it admits around 450 patients, and deals with 400 new day cases and 3,000 return visits.
The hospital was last threatened with closure by the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board in 2011. After energetic local community campaigning, the proposed closure was rejected by the then SNP Health Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. But last week — only days after the general election — the health board announced that it was again proposing to close Lightburn. It based its decision on a new national strategy for elderly care, under which only those in need of acute care should be treated in hospital.
Local activists involved in the previous Save Lightburn Campaign reject the arguments for closure and have relaunched a campaign to keep the hospital open. There are transport problems for local out-patients needing to access the services which are to be transferred to other hospitals. Inpatients who would otherwise be treated in Lightburn will end up in care homes — a backdoor form of privatisation.
Parkinson’s UK has condemned the impact of closure on the local Parkinson’s Group: “We are concerned that the removal of Lightburn as the hub for service delivery presents major challenges. We should be proud of local facilities like the Lightburn and be investing in them — not closing them.”
The proposed closure has been classed as a major service change. The final decision on Lightburn’s future therefore lies with SNP Health Secretary, Shona Robison. The SNP Holyrood government is a minority government. It has been badly weakened by the SNP’s poor showing in the general election. It is therefore vulnerable to pressure to keep Lightburn open.
Gerry McCann, who led the earlier Save Lightburn Campaign, is confident that campaigning will keep the hospital open: “Their choice to shut the only local hospital left in the area is a real slap in the face for local people. The battle goes on. … There can be no excuse for cutting healthcare services in one of Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities.”