EAST Lothian’s MSP has criticised a lack of “clear, transparent decision-making and communication” over the loss of services at the Edington Hospital in North Berwick, after health chiefs confirmed to the Courier on Wednesday that the hospital’s existing minor injuries unit would be replaced by a less comprehensive and accessible service.

When contacted by us, Paul McLennan MSP – who has formed a steering group which will look at the temporary closure of the hospital and the redistribution of all of its inpatient work – said he had not been made aware that the Community Treatment and Care (CTAC) service would be by appointment-only and available solely to over-18s, unlike the much-valued minor injuries service at the Edington.

Mr McLennan said he was “extremely disappointed” after East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership (ELHSCP) confirmed the change, adding: “I will be contacting the NHS to look for clarification. The key issue is that there has to be clear, transparent decision-making and communication – this hasn’t been the case in this decision.”

The new CTAC service will start on Monday, along with a new physiotherapy service for over-18s, while a new physiotherapy pain management clinic is to provide one-to-one rehab sessions.

Both the CTAC and musculoskeletal physiotherapy service are to operate Monday-Friday; the CTAC service runs 8.30am-5pm and the physiotherapy service 9-11.30am.

Drop-in flu and Covid vaccination clinics are also to be established in the hospital on a temporary basis.

The announcement of the new services follows the news that no new patients will be admitted to the St Baldred’s Road hospital as it closes to all inpatient work and admissions for at least three months in a bid to consolidate staffing for the winter.

The beds – and the staff – have been moved to East Lothian Community Hospital in Haddington; the decision is to be reviewed every three months.

The switch has caused concern over the hospital’s long-term future, with a petition to ‘save the Edington’ receiving more than 6,700 signatures so far.

The change to the minor injuries service has also been heavily criticised by North Berwick Community Council.

The group voted unanimously to support a campaign to save the Edington from closure at its meeting last week and has received more than 100 letters of support from residents.

Judy Lockhart-Hunter, the group’s chair, said: “We understand that for the next 12 weeks, the minor injuries clinic will operate only during reduced hours and be led by CTAC nurses.

“CTAC nurses are not qualified to the same level that the previous nurses were. Whilst they can offer ongoing chronic wound dressing and management, they are not trained in primary wound management, they cannot suture or glue and they cannot prescribe antibiotics. These services are imperative in a minor injuries unit.

“The reduced facility will operate limited hours Monday-Friday. There will be no service available in the town for those who are injured out of hours or during the weekend.

“The changes imposed by NHS Lothian are unacceptable and full facilities must be reopened as a matter of urgency.”

Iain Gorman, ELHSCP operations manager, claimed that the changes were “expanding the services that people can access locally”.

He said: “We want to make sure that the community gets the best out of the Edington while the temporary relocation is in force, so we are expanding the services that people can access locally and bringing a range of key services closer to home. These do depend on telephone assessment or GP referral, which is very important in the current climate.

“Right across Scotland, the way urgent care is delivered is changing. There is a move away from the drop-in model to one which helps people to access the right help from the right professional at the right time.”

Meanwhile, the new steering group formed by Mr McLennan will look at the Edington’s future, as well as longer-term work on the re-provisioning of other healthcare facilities, including the town’s The Abbey care home and Dunbar’s Belhaven Hospital.

In an email to interested parties on Tuesday morning, the SNP MSP said: “Having spoken to most stakeholders, there is an agreement to form a steering group looking at the issue of the temporary closure at the moment, but also on the longer term work on the re-provisioning of the Edington and Abbey, proposed by the IJB [Integration Joint Board].

“The group will of course be cross-party and cross-agency and will allow a stronger voice to be presented to NHS Lothian.”

Alongside Mr McLennan, other political figures involved include Craig Hoy (Con) and Martin Whitfield (Lab), the two East Lothian-based South Scotland MSPs; East Lothian’s MP Kenny MacAskill; the three North Berwick ward councillors Jeremy Findlay, Jim Goodfellow and Jane Henderson; and Councillor Shamin Akhtar, vice-chair of East Lothian IJB.

Mr McLennan also approached local community groups Friends of the Edington Hospital, North Berwick Community Council, Gullane Area Community Council, North Berwick Health and Wellbeing Association, local GPs and union representatives, with all agreeing to join.

Dates are being looked at for the group’s first meeting.