NHS Borders will announce next month how and when the public will be consulted over any changes to the way clinical services are delivered in the region.
The health board says a report commissioned for its February meeting “will include full proposals for effective engagement with the public, staff and other stakeholders along with timescales”.
And a spokesperson has again stressed that “at no stage has the board stated its intention to close community hospitals”.
Speculation over the future of the four 23-bed facilities at Hawick, Kelso, Duns and Peebles was fuelled in November when NHS Borders revealed that a review of clinical services – including in-patient provision – was being undertaken.
And last month, board chairman John Raine gave Scottish Borders Council an assurance that any programme of change would be subject to full public consultation through SBC’s network of area forums.
Borders MP Michael Moore met NHS Borders chairman John Raine and acting chief executive Jane Davidson on Friday to discuss clinical services plans and the future of local community hospitals.
Afterwards Mr Moore said: “The prospect of community hospitals closing causes real worry to people in towns across the Borders. I have reinforced community concerns to the senior management of the NHS and explained why I oppose the closure of facilities which are vital to the towns and communities they serve.
“We now need to see a clear plan for the clinical services review and the public consultation which must go alongside it. We face real challenges in the region, but closing these hospitals would be the wrong answer to them.”
John Lamont, Conservative MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire is demanding that the public must have the chance to directly question NHS bosses.
“It is all too easy for administrators to come up with plans which may look good on paper, but NHS Borders must hear directly the concerns I am getting from patients and staff that closures would be damaging,” said Mr Lamont.
“It is right that NHS Borders looks at making positive changes to the services it provides, but closing down busy local hospitals, at a time when the Borders General Hospital is so busy, is not the right move.”
Responding, a health board spokesperson stated: “NHS Borders would like to reiterate that, at no stage, has the board stated its intention to close community hospitals.”
A report on clinical services and how to take the review forward will be discussed at NHS Borders’ February board meeting.