The Scottish health secretary’s delayed response to requests for a meeting on the future of North Berwick’s Edington Hospital has been described by a campaigner as “diabolical”.

Judy Lockhart-Hunter, chair of North Berwick Community Council, sent six emails to Humza Yousaf’s office, asking for a meeting to discuss the ongoing closure of the town’s community hospital ahead of a NHS Lothian review today (Thursday).

But when the health secretary’s office replied last week, it was to offer times for a meeting with Mr Yousaf in January – more than a month after the key review on the facility’s future.

In September, NHS bosses consolidated staffing at East Lothian Community Hospital “in the face of unprecedented levels of demand”, with the Edington’s six inpatient beds relocated to the Haddington hospital too.

The move is to be reviewed every three months.

But with the first review due to be held today (Thursday), those campaigning to reopen the Edington are frustrated they have been unable to pin down health bosses for a meeting.

In a joint statement, Murray Duncanson, chairman of Friends of the Edington; Hilary Smith, co-chair of North Berwick Coastal Health & Wellbeing Association; and Judy Lockhart-Hunter, chairperson of North Berwick Community Council, said: “The cabinet secretary is well aware of the public outcry that surrounds the Edington closure, having received countless letters of objection, not least from the [community] steering group and the former head of East Lothian Council.

“We need assurances that temporary will not become permanent.”

And they added: “The [NHS] change board has given us no indication of its intentions or even what criteria need to be met to ensure the hospital’s reopening and that is why we called for his [Mr Yousaf’s] intervention: the Edington has become an unnecessary casualty of a staffing crisis that goes beyond our boundaries and is deeper than the pandemic.

“It was fully staffed at the time it closed, which speaks volumes.

“In spite of persistent attempts to request a meeting to discuss the situation over the last few months, we find ourselves on the eve of the first review with the offer of a meeting one month from now.

“It is hugely disappointing that Humza, who was at the community hospital in Haddington only weeks ago, has been unable to find time to meet the steering group and suggests that this review is a foregone conclusion.

“It is of huge concern that the people of East Lothian will potentially suffer a further three months without these vital healthcare services. We cannot let that happen.”

Mrs Lockhart-Hunter added: “It is diabolical that the earliest date he is willing to meet is 39 days after the review.”

Craig Hoy, South Scotland MSP, submitted the results of his online survey on the Edington closure to the East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership (ELHSCP) on Monday.

In a report compiled by the MSP, he said: “The Edington is a well-used and well-loved service in the community that provided a vital service.

“This is reflected in the responses. In particular, the minor injuries unit at the Edington was highlighted by many as a key local resource that improved and saved lives.

“The expectation that those injured should be able to make their own way to Edinburgh to receive treatment, an hour by car for those that are able to, is unreasonable.”

Mr Duncanson claimed he and other members of the steering group working to reopen the hospital were “struggling to accept” the ELHSCP’s failure to share its reopening criteria with them.

He said: “Our community has been severely rocked by this closure. In their only communication with us, East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership tells us that they understand the importance and are appreciative of the support local communities have towards all the services provided in the local area.

“We hope they are serious about that and will reinstate all the services we have lost, putting the needs of our people, carers and families first.”

The health secretary’s office was asked for comment by the Courier but had not replied by the time of going to press.