North-east politicians have expressed their concern over the closure of two Aberdeen dementia units for a year due to a staffing crisis.
The Evening Express revealed on Saturday that NHS Grampian is to temporarily close Loirston ward and Lochhead Day Hospital at Royal Cornhill Hospital (RCH).
A total of 38 dementia patients will be affected by the move but hospital bosses have said it is too unsafe to continue running the services due to staffing problems.
The hospital has more than 55 registered trained nursing vacancies – amounting to 22% of its workforce.
On Saturday Jane Fletcher, head of hosted mental health and learning disability services, said: “It is simply unsafe for us to try to run our services, in their current format, with that number of unfilled posts.
“In recent months my team have been exploring different ways of working or using different mixes of staff groups to find a long term solution.”
Politicians have called for the Scottish Government to do more to support NHS Grampian.
North-east MSP Mike Rumbles said: “This is typical of funding problems that Grampian health services have faced for a long time. This is a deliberate move that has given the north-east the worst funding in Scotland – the government is deliberately not giving a fair share.
“It is an absolute scandal.
“The worst part is the fact that this has very serious repercussions on real people.
“My colleagues and I all stand up for the north-east and this is a terrible situation. I am extremely disappointed and concerned.”
Ross Thomson, Scottish Conservative MP for Aberdeen South, said: “This is an alarming development. With one fifth of the workforce missing, NHS Grampian clearly feels there is no choice but to close these units. This will obviously be a very worrying time for patients and their families, who will be concerned at the impact this could have.”
North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said: “This is a cause for concern.
“These closures will mean some people won’t receive the care they need. We must now see the Scottish Government and neighbouring health boards lend NHS Grampian the necessary support.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We recognise that the north-east faces a range of complex challenges. Despite the UK Government’s cuts to the Scottish Resource Budget, we are committed to providing the necessary support and funding to enable the area to thrive.
“NHS Grampian is receiving a resource budget increase of 2.1% this year, which is the highest percentage increase of any Board and takes the annual budget to £921 million. We understand the increasing demand and expectations placed on frontline services and NHS Grampian will also receive a share of £175m to support reform.”