The NHS Borders board has confirmed it intends to begin a review of all clinical services, after a review of community hospitals “rang alarm bells”.
The news comes after concerns over the impact of cost cutting measures on community hospitals like Duns’ The Knoll were raised at a Berwickshire Area Committee meeting.
One member of the public at the meeting said: ”The fact that this has been floated shows how seriously we should take it.”
Another member of the public suggested that the ground work is already being done and some services are being moved out of The Knoll already.
Councillor Donald Moffat echoed those concerns: “To lose the Knoll now would be a major blow,” he said. “I think this is alarm bells.”
Referring to the closure of Jedburgh and Coldstream cottage hospitals, he added: “They totally ignored public views last time and I think they will do so again.”
On Tuesday Chairman of NHS Borders, John Raine, said: “All public service organisations need periodically to review the way they deliver services and we are no exception.
“We have budget pressures which mean we must continue to make efficiency savings but the fact is we are given substantial sums of public money and we need to be assured we are using our resources in the best possible way for those we serve.”
A meeting of the Health Board has commissioned a report for its February 2015 meeting to establish how the review should be taken forward, starting with a review of the services provided by Community Hospitals.
Medical Director, Dr Sheena MacDonald highlighted the need to review clinical services, including Community Hospitals, at the Health Board’s Annual Review last month.
John Raine commented further in an attempt to allay closure fears: “Regrettably Dr MacDonald’s comments have been misinterpreted as an intention to close hospitals.
“We know our Community Hospitals are highly regarded in the localities but the review will need to look at the way all our in-patient services are used and how Community Hospitals work as part of the whole system of healthcare alongside other health and social care services in the community” said John Raine.
A petition set up by Hawick resident Michael Grieve in support of community hospitals ran to over 1,200 signatures within 36 hours.
Meanwhile, Marie Curie Cancer Care and NHS Borders have announced they are collaborating on a project looking at ways of improving care and support for terminally ill people and their families in the Borders.
The Scottish Borders Palliative care needs assessment project is in reaction to the growing need for palliative care. Currently around 900 people every year in the Scottish Borders require palliative care and support.
Dr Annabel Howell, lead clinician in cancer services, said: “There is an increasing demand for palliative care and in order to ensure we use the resources we have to best benefit the people of the Borders, Marie Curie are working with NHS Borders to provide the background information.
“We need to find innovative ways to provide more palliative care within our current budget.”