A LETTER from Health Secretary Humza Yousaf MSP on the future of North Berwick’s Edington Cottage Hospital has been condemned as “shocking”, amid claims that residents are being “ignored”.

The Edington’s only ward closed last September for an initial 12-week period but has now been shut for nine months, with the majority of services being relocated to the East Lothian Community Hospital (ELCH) in Haddington.

Ongoing NHS reviews have been unable so far to provide clarity on when it might fully reopen again, as they repeatedly place the facility in the lowest category in regards to a reopening criteria.

The main reason for this remains a lack of available staff, which has resulted in the consolidation of services at larger facilities such as the ELCH.

In a reply to members of North Berwick Community Council, Mr Yousaf stated that ongoing reviews continued to take place but said that “no beds (or services) have been closed”.

He added: “Any patient requiring access to an inpatient bed from North Berwick will do so nine miles away in Haddington at East Lothian Community Hospital.”

'Reviewed regularly'

Mr Yousaf’s letter also stated: “The reporting of updates on the Edington Hospital has not changed, and the Edington Hospital continues to be reviewed and monitored regularly, with the same monthly report being submitted to the NHS Lothian Corporate Management Team (or Gold Command if it were it to be re-established).

“Importantly, the Edington Hospital as a facility has also remained open throughout this time, providing additional local services with increased community treatment and care services (CTAC), vaccination clinics (Covid-19 and flu) and physiotherapy musculoskeletal (MSK) clinics. Over 1,000 people have attended theses clinics, with overwhelmingly positive feedback on the clinics.”

Murray Duncanson, chairman of Friends of the Edington, found Mr Yousaf’s reply “shocking” and rejected his notion that no services had been lost.

He said: “I have to say I think this is a shocking reply from the minister and is a long way from the warm words he gave colleagues earlier in the year.

“I’m not sure which school of spin he attended. I guess it was called ‘smoke and mirrors’. To say that no beds or services have been closed is complete nonsense.”

The letter also mentions that the return of two palliative care beds to the town’s The Abbey care home was due imminently, but this was originally promised by June 6.

'Continuous dialogue'

Paul McLennan, MSP for East Lothian, reassured residents and campaigners that steps were being taken to ensure the re-opening of all services at the Edington.

Said the SNP MSP: “Since the closure of the Edington, I have remained in continuous dialogue with the Cabinet Secretary for Health and discussions are ongoing with NHS Lothian on this matter.

“The Edington Steering Group, which I chair, is provided with the most up-to-date information from myself in this regard whenever it is available.

“Having recently met with the NHS Lothian chief executive, Calum Campbell, alongside regional MSPs, it is clear that the issue of capacity within NHS Lothian hospitals remains high.

“However, we have had numerous reassurances that there is no intention to close the Edington and progress towards reopening is being made.

“Recruitment to address staff shortages continues and reviews are now on a monthly basis, with the next review due to take place in the first week of July.

“I am planning a meeting in early July with recently appointed chief officer of East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, Fiona Wilson, as soon as she is available to ascertain a timeline as to when the Edington can safely reopen.”


Martin Whitfield, a South Scotland Labour MSP, was disappointed with Mr Yousaf’s response.

He said: “This is another very disappointing response.

“Ever since the Edington was first closed in September last year, Mr Yousaf has avoided taking any responsibility or providing the answers that campaigners and the community want.

“We know that the NHS staffing crisis is ongoing but the SNP Government is just not doing enough to respond to it. As we head towards one year since the closure, ministers have to stop passing the buck and act now to secure the Edington’s future.”

Fellow South Scotland MSP Craig Hoy (Conservative) urged Mr Yousaf to meet local campaigners.

He said: “Once again, Humza Yousaf and the Scottish Government are abdicating responsibility for the closure of services.

“It is regrettable that Mr Yousaf continues to ignore local residents and is refusing to meet with campaign groups or MSPs.

“I would urge him to meet with campaigners and take action as this closure has gone on for far too long.”