I attended the open information evening on the New South Glasgow Hospitals, previously the Southern General, on Wednesday night – 11th March, 2015 – in Newton Mearns Baptist Church. This was a busy meeting – certainly upwards of a hundred people – and the audience were very engaged with the subject.
The presentation was given by Dr Kate Munro whose job description is given on What’s on East Renfrewshire as Community Engagement Manager, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde.
There were a number of concerns raised: getting to early appointments; difficulty visiting people in the NSGH; staff issues around parking and getting there for shifts starting; lack of clarity around transport and moving dates; and some concerns about hospital food quality.
The presentation consisted of a slide deck taking us through the detail of the new building and site – explaining that transport had been though through on site and that there would be one entrance to the hospital which any buses that come on site will stop directly outside. It was also pointed out that the car parking was very close to the front entrance and that some negotiations were underway to possibly get mobility scooters in place – nothing guaranteed though and dependent on a charity providing them.
As the meeting was in Newton Mearns, the majority of people were concerned about getting to the hospitals via any means within two hours. If not driving, Dr Munro proposed some options such as to go to Braehead and take a bus or to go into Glasgow and take the Fastlink service (which doesn’t yet exist). It was clear that the options discussed didn’t answer the concerns of the people present – there was still a feeling that 9am appointments were going to be impossible for patients in this area. Dr Munro suggested that if you were given such an early appointment you could re-arrange it but then noted that day surgery would want you in at 7am which seemed contradictory – Dr Munro suggested that parking at 7am wouldn’t be a problem in response to that which seemed like a partial answer; what if you didn’t have a car or access to a car?
It was at this point that Dr Munro mentioned a volunteer project and introduced a woman called Ann-Marie to talk about it. The project is called Community Transport ER and it seems like a really good service for residents of East Renfrewshire. Amongst other services Community Transport ER can get you to hospital appointments but it also would struggle to get you there for 9am as volunteers start at 8.30am.
We were quite a while into the presentation at this point and it was clear that there was no detail about any other transport available. McGill’s Buses have announced their services already but First Bus and the other ’40 bus operators’ had yet to ‘show their hand.’ Dr Munro laid the blame for this squarely at deregulation of the buses and she is, of course, 100% correct.
In 2015, the Scottish Government can build an £842 million pound set of hospitals and administration buildings but it cannot make a bus turn up at the front door!
In 2015, the Scottish Government can build an £842 million pound set of hospitals and administration buildings but it cannot make a bus turn up at the front door! This is astonishing. Then, as if to pour salt in the wound, we were informed that negotiations over subsidies with SPT were ongoing. So, not only will you have to pay for the bus when you are on it, you’ll have to pay for the bus to run.
There was some annoyance shown by Dr Munro when parking was brought up again and I think it did her no favours – I realise that there are long running discussions around staff commuting to the new hospitals and it doesn’t appear that there will be a quick resolution to these issues but, as a member of staff pointed out, ‘who will care for the patients in this hospital if staff cannot get there?’
‘Who will care for the patients in this hospital if staff cannot get there?’
A communication on the new hospitals was promised, that will be sent to every household affected, with a tailored set of transport options from your area once the bus companies have decided what routes are profitable or will be subsidised.
I had no real conception of how bus deregulation affected the service delivered as I guess I have always been on the end of a profitable service. I think it is unlikely that large swathes of East Renfrewshire will have any direct services to the New South Glasgow Hospitals and that just isn’t good enough – for staff, visitors, or patients. Other people have been more active in this area and we need to back their efforts:
The East Ren Greens are planning an event to draw attention to the difficulties of getting to the new hospitals via public transport and we’ll let you know what form that will take when we have a firmer timetable – we’ll be joining up with our members in Renfrewshire and Glasgow and we hope to make a real improvement to the services available.
The current setup is just not good enough. Ask yourself this – why is there a market in getting someone to hospital?