HEALTH boards will be called on to be more transparent in their decision-making processes following a ban on the treatment of Lanarkshire patients at a unique hospital.

Campaigners yesterday claimed the Scottish Health Council (SHC), which protects patients’ rights, had “serious concerns” about the decision.

The decision to stop referring new patients to the Centre for Integrative Care in Glasgow by NHS Lanarkshire has exposed a “serious flaw in democratic transparency” according to campaigners battling to save services at the centre, which treats people with chronic conditions.

They fear the board’s decision to stop referring new patients threatens the future of the unit, which is supposed to serve the whole of Scotland. Only four out of 14 health boards now regularly send patients to the centre and beds have been cut from 15 to seven.

The campaigners claimed yesterday that NHS Lanarkshire “stressed repeatedly” that their decision to close two local CIC clinics and stop referring new patients to the main hospital had been approved by the Scottish Health Council.

However the campaigners say they have now found out that the council, which protects patients’ rights, had “serious concerns”.

“They (the council) stated that a key board document ‘does not reflect the disproportionate impact on people with long term conditions and disabilities and how this will be mitigated’,” said former health professional Catherine Hughes, who is a patient at the hospital which treats conditions such as multiple sclerosis, severe arthritis, Parkinson’s, chronic pain, ME and motor neurone disease.

She continued: “Patients’ views don’t count. Boards and bureaucrats rule. I want to expose how patients are being denied democracy shockingly.

“In the current Lanarkshire case, when an overwhelming 80.6 per cent of the public and patients voted to continue with the CIC, they were ignored. Just nine board members voted down the wishes of 4,800 people responding to the board’s public consultation.

“They also aim to shut two local CIC clinics at Carluke and Coatbridge and force patients to return to conventional services. But many have been through these already without success. That’s why some patients nickname the CIC ‘last hope hotel’.”

Hughes added: “I am outraged that chronically ill people are being denied their choice. These are some of the most ill people in Scotland.

Labour MSP Elaine Smith, who is opposing a clinic being closed in her Coatbridge constituency, now has a motion before Holyrood calling for “an end to one sided views of health boards being discussed behind closed doors, with MSPs undemocratically excluded in the decision process”.

Smith’s motion points out that, at present, boards’ plans are submitted in private to the SHC which is dependent on information selected by an NHS board for consideration behind closed doors and that outside challenge, comment or corrections to aid the SHC are missing.

People suffering from serious conditions will be among those giving evidence to the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament tomorrow when the motion is heard.

Dr Harpreet Kohli, NHS Lanarkshire’s director of public health and health policy, said: “The Scottish Government was informed at all stages and the Scottish Health Council oversaw and approved the process.”