Claims a cottage hospital was being closed for good after staff were redeployed to support the Covid crisis have been denied by health chiefs.

The decision to "temporarily" move beds and staff at Edington Hospital in North Berwick to East Lothian Community Hospital in Haddington has sparked fears for the former's long-term future.

However, at a meeting of East Lothian Integration Joint Board (IJB) yesterday, chairman Peter Murray insisted this was not true, saying: “It is not closing”.

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Mr Murray (pictured) expressed disappointment in what he described as “misinformation” on social media and in a petition that has been signed by thousands of local residents suggesting the hospital was at risk.

The Edington, which has six beds providing palliative care, is one of a number of facilities under review by the IJB as part of a move to create a 21st century elderly care service.

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Talks have been ongoing about introducing a new model of care for the elderly which could replace the Edington, Belhaven Hospital in Dunbar and The Abbey care home, North Berwick and Eskbank care home in Musselburgh.

However Mr Murray said the decision to temporarily move staff from the Edington to the larger Haddington hospital was unrelated to the review and simply a response to the Covid crisis.

He said of the claims: “It is really disappointing. There is a petition signed by 7,000 people, suggesting Edington Hospital is closing. It is not closing.”

Mr Murray said he understood people’s concern about the rapid decision to move staff without consultation but appealed for some “latitude”, saying it was a response to a crisis.


Peter Murray

Peter Murray


He said:  “We have had quite a lot of communications from people expressing concern about a lack of consultation.

“This is a highly unusual situation we have been faced with. It was a critical decision for a critical situation.

“We had to react quickly and I think it’s only reasonable to allow a degree of latitude in those circumstances."

And he added: “I don’t in any way underestimate the strength of feeling that people have for local facilities and their desire to protect them.

“But just to conclude, the Edington is part of a broader analysis of care provision that’s still underway. This is a separate decision made as part of a crisis.”

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Iain Gorman from East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership told the board the crisis came out of staff absences caused by Covid infection rates.

He said NHS Lothian had met with the partnership bosses to look at a way to cope with the pressure and bringing staff to one central location at the community hospital, in Haddington, was deemed the best move for their safety and the safety of patients as needs and absences were assessed on a daily basis.

He said: “We’ve been dealing with this now for 18 months and there’s a level of exhaustion among the staff and everyone is doing what they can and everybody is is trying.

“But people are quite rightly looking for their holidays, looking for the breaks.

“It has become more challenging to keep the whole system going and it made sense to use the East Lothian community hospital site rather than trying to operate satellite units.”

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Mr Gorman said health chiefs recognised the importance of the Edington to the local community but added: “In order for us to keep the system running as a whole, it’s better to consolidate staff. It’s not an easy decision to make.”

Staff have been moved from the Edington for an initial 12-week period with a review due to take place in the coming weeks.