Jun 22 2011 by Kaiya Marjoribanks, Stirling Observer Wednesday
FUNDING for a community hospital on the site of Stirling Royal Infirmary never existed, bosses have acknowledged.
As reported in the Observer just a few weeks ago, NHS Forth Valley has had to shelve plans for any major revamp of the existing SRI buildings and accommodation for at least the next three years, although the majority of services will be delivered from there as planned.
However, community activists have questioned how the situation could have arisen.
At a meeting of Stirling CHP Public Partnership Forum in the SRI conference centre, former Borestone Community Councillor Jim Bruce asked NHS Forth Valley managers: “Where has the money gone?”.
He said: “I have attended meetings over a number of years and always asked if you have got the money and have always got the answer ‘yes’.”
An NHS Forth Valley representative said: “It’s about constraints on capital budgets.
“You might call it a dire position, but our briefing is to continue to provide the services we have always intended to provide here. I think we are managing to do that by using existing premises, not new or redeveloped premises on the site.
“It’s gone the way of all capital funding. Usually we plan on a three to five year basis and based on a business case coming forward. As of last November, after the announcement of allocations, we were told that with very large projects such as new South Glasgow Hospital at £800 million and Forth Road crossing, finite resources were pretty much allocated. For a three year period it is understood there’s no money for capital developments.
“It doesn’t mean they will never happen. They are still in the vision.”
Mr Bruce added: “But we are talking another three to five years at least. To my mind someone has been talking porky pies. You never had the money in the first place.”
The official replied: “People can only give the information they have at the time. We couldn’t foresee the financial circumstances which were to come about. Decisions were based on the availability of money at the time.”
Torbrex Community Councillor Murray Dickie said: “It is a common misunderstanding in the community that this was real money and somehow this was lost.
“It seems this whole project was based on costings, with the expectation the money would be available in allocations from central government.”
At the forum, NHS Forth Valley travel plan manager Mark Craske announced that from July 25 bus company First is to run a new direct link to the new Forth Valley Royal Hospital at Larbert, through Clackmannan, Alloa, Tullibody and Stirling.
Combined with the number 38 service, Mr Craske said this would mean a 10-minute frequency for buses to the new hospital.
He added the Glenbervie slip road project, which would accommodate people travelling to the hospital from Stirling, looked likely to begin by autumn this year and be operational from next spring.
“There will also be more evening buses from Monday to Saturday, continuing the half-hourly service on Sunday between Stirling and Forth Valley Royal Hospital.”
However, Bannockburn Community Councillor Terry Barlow said people from Cowie were still being poorly served by public transport to the hospital, adding: “People from Cowie need to get a bus into Bannockburn to then get another one to get to Larbert.
“People in Cowie didn’t ask for their acute hospital to be in Larbert. NHS Forth Valley also have a duty to the people of Cowie to ensure they are provided with exactly the same service as people from Dollar or other places. To leave a little village on its own is scandalous.
“Twice last year the road was flooded between Bannockburn and Larbert or between Bannockburn and Plean. Guess where the bus went – through Cowie.”
Mr Craske said: “I have a huge amount of respect for your point of view, but you need to speak to First. It’s a commercial entity, so if there is no difference in revenue they may well listen to you.”