A RECOMMENDATION to close ward two at Belhaven Hospital has been shelved – just days before a meeting to discuss its future.

The future of the ward, which is home to 12 beds and looks after patients admitted by their GP or in need of respite or palliative care, has been discussed for months and was placed under review by health chiefs earlier this year.

East Lothian Integration Joint Board (IJB) is due to meet this afternoon (Thursday), with members now being recommended to select option three – moving the ward two service to ward three – and not option five.

Option five, which was only revealed on December 7, proposed to “close ward two and provide current clinical care activity through a package of alternative measures”.

The proposal was described as “underhand and manipulative” by ward councillor Paul McLennan.

The IJB is made up of four councillors – Shamin Akhtar, Fiona O’Donnell, Sue Kempson and Stuart Currie – as well as four NHS non-executive members.

Mr McLennan was pleased to see option five ruled out but felt there were still a number of unanswered questions for option three.

He said: “I’ve been campaigning for the future of ward two for many years and it’s needed more now than ever. Dunbar GPs have called for the ward to be kept open with the investment of £553,000 required (option four).

“The other option (option three) of closing ward three and moving ward two to it is not meeting the needs of either short-term or longer-term needs.

“I would urge councillor colleagues to support option four in the paper and invest in ward two.

“If option three is selected then there must be reassurances to the community that any nursing home patients are treated fairly and families consulted and as long a transition time as required.”

Option five was shelved after “significant negative reaction”.

The council papers include an appendix detailing opposition to the move from Belhaven Hospital League of Friends, Dunbar, West Barns and East Lammermuir community councils, and Dunbar and East Linton GPs.

Former councillor Jacquie Bell, secretary of Dunbar Community Council, called for a decision on the future of ward two to be deferred.

She said the Belhaven Forum had not had a chance to discuss option five and wrote in response to the option to say: “The forum had asked for more information to be given on all the options.

“It needs more discussion time.”

Meanwhile, local doctors also raised concerns at “the way the engagement and decision-making process have been managed”.

The letter reads: “We feel the process was flawed in not enabling the working group to report back to the forum. We also feel the lack of anything more than ‘back-of-an-envelope’ costings of the proposed options was unhelpful and did not allow the Belhaven forum group to make an informed decision.”

The other options were: 1. Continue to provide the existing service within the existing premises; 2. Provide the service within a replacement modular facility next to ward two; and 4. Upgrade the ward to required standards.