Linlithgow hospital forced to close due to nursing shortage

St Michael’s Hospital in Linlithgow has been temporarily closed due to a nursing shortage, with its few remaining patients moved to nearby Tippethill House Hospital.

Picture Michael Gillen. St Michael's Hospital, Linlithgow.
Picture Michael Gillen. St Michael's Hospital, Linlithgow.

St Michael’s provides end of life and respite care for patients, who have now been moved nine miles to the community hospital in Armadale.

Bosses insisted the closure of the 24-bed long-stay hospital was temporary and will be reviewed next month.

Alison White, chief officer of the West Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Health services across Scotland are facing staffing pressures, caused by higher levels of general sickness and staff who are self-isolating.

Picture Michael Gillen. LINLITHGOW. St Michael's Hospital exterior.

“As a result, a number of actions are being taken across NHS Lothian and the local health and social care partnerships to ensure that patient safety, quality care and wellbeing of our hard-working staff remain the foremost priority.

“We have looked across all of our community facilities to see if there are better ways of delivering care or amalgamating services that would also allow us to release more staffing. As a result, we are working with staff, patients and their families and partnership to co-locate similar wards of small numbers of patients into one hospital as a temporary measure, one which will be reviewed in September when we expect the staffing position to improve.

“This means that a small number of patients, who are currently receiving care in St Michael’s Hospital, will be transferred into another ward in Tippethill House Hospital.

“Our clinical teams have carried out a full clinical assessment to ensure that patients are well enough to travel the short distance and will not be impacted by the journey or the move. They and their families are being kept fully informed.”

Patients from a number of smaller homes in the area will also have to be moved to Tippethill, as a result of staffing pressures.

The mounting pressure caused by general sickness, annual leave and staff self-isolating on health boards across the country has prompted warnings from Unison of “crippling” shortages meaning only basic care can be provided. Two surgical wards at St John's Hospital in Livingston had to be amalgamated last week as a result of staff shortages.

Local Linlithgow Constituency MSP, Fiona Hyslop (SNP), has contacted the Chief Executive of NHS Lothian’s Health and Care Partnership to raise her concerns about the temporary closure of St Michael’s Hospital in Linlithgow.

She said: “While I understand that this temporary closure has been caused by staff illnesses related to Covid 19, I have contacted the Health Board’s Chief Executive to ask for a meeting to ensure this move is strictly temporary and not the first step in a strategy to remove hospital care for the elderly from Linlithgow.

“The town and the north of the county needs a nursing home for older people which is local to the community and easy to travel to for visitors, many of whom are elderly themselves.

“As well as asking for a meeting with NHS Lothian, I have requested further details regarding how many patients are affected and being moved, what staff numbers does this then release and what measures will be put in place to help those visiting Tippethill House who may not have access to their own transport, or may suffer from mobility issues themselves.”