A MINISTER who nearly died from a killer infection says he wouldn't be alive today without the under-threat intensive care unit at Inverclyde Royal.

Reverend Brian Webster was left fighting for his life after he fell dangerously ill with sepsis.

The Gourock man says he wouldn't have survived had he been transferred elsewhere in an ambulance.

He felt moved to speak out after health chiefs recently admitted that they could close the two-bed unit.

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and the Scottish Government say patients might have to go to Paisley in the future because of a staffing crisis and a reduction in activity.

Reverend Webster, 73, of Albert Road, said: "I barely made it from accident and emergency to the ICU.

"I would never have survived if I had to go in an ambulance.

"It was touch and go, as my organs just shut down.

"I was in intensive care for seven weeks.

"My son was told to come home from Australia because they didn't think I was going to make it."

Dad-of-three Brian had been suffering from a liver condition for a number of years so he had been in and out of hospital.

He ended up with his gall bladder removed five years ago and within two weeks fell seriously ill.

Mr Webster said: "I can barely remember anything at all but my wife Fiona had to live through it all.

"I was close to death and I nearly didn't make it.

"I was becoming so ill at home and my wife drove me to accident and emergency after I took a turn for the worse.

"There was not so much awareness of sepsis then but lucky for me the doctors at the IRH knew what they were dealing with.

"I never even went to the IRH in an ambulance - what chance would I have had if we had been delayed even further?

"The staff at the intensive care unit in IRH are incredible and they helped me every step of the way."

Fiona kept vigil at Brian's bedside along with the couple's sons Martin, Simon and Jonathan.

She said: "We thought we were going to lose him and without the intensive care beds we would have.

"We were told to expect the worst."

Since then Reverend Webster has faced an uphill battle to recover from his ordeal and has also battled depression.

Afterwards the minister was dealt another blow when he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone marrow cancer.

It causes extensive scarring in the bone marrow, leading to severe anaemia, and he has again been relying on IRH for care.

He added: "I have to go for platelets treatment at Inverclyde Royal.

"There are services going from Inverclyde Royal all the time.

"You notice it when you are up there.

"It affects everyone if you are not able to get treated there.

"My family would have faced journeys to Paisley twice a day.

"That is okay if you have a car, but what if you are relying on public transport?"

The churchman hit out at the number of health services being centralised and he has urged local MSP Stuart McMillan to take action.

Mr Webster said: "I worked for IBM and it became clear there, the more you centralise, the less effective services become and they cost more to run."

The Tele reported last month that the intensive care beds were under threat and this was admitted publicly for the first time by the Scottish Government.

Bosses at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board insist that no decisions have been made.

A spokeswoman said: "We are absolutely committed to providing safe and effective care for patients at Inverclyde Royal Hospital.

"The hospital plays a vital role within the community and will continue to do so for the long-term.

"No decisions have been made regarding the ongoing provision of level three, intensive care at IRH and as it stands, we continue to maintain two intensive care beds.

"However, despite multiple recruitment drives, we face long-term staffing challenges for the two affected intensive care beds and as a result, we are considering a number of alternative options.

"These will allow us to continue providing intensive care treatment for the small number of patients in the region requiring it – around one patient per week – with options including potential safe transfer to another hospital if necessary."

The board says any changes would be subject to a 'process of communication and involvement of stakeholders'.