MANY families in Inverclyde and Renfrewshire have contacted me over the past few days to express their dismay at the closure of the Children’s Ward at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

The Scottish Government have now approved the transfer of in-patient paediatrics and day cases from the RAH to the new Royal Hospital for Children on the southside of Glasgow.

The children’s ward has served communities across the west of Scotland for years, including Inverclyde, and I know that the ward is greatly valued by local Inverclyde families with direct, first-hand experience of the care and support it provides.

Before the last Scottish Parliament elections in 2016, Nicola Sturgeon was asked about the future of the ward on a live televised election debate and she denied that proposals to close the children’s ward even existed. She also said she would keep health services ‘as local as they need to be’.

Yet now the ward at the RAH is closing and local families feel betrayed.

A total of 17,000 people signed petitions and supported the campaign to keep the ward open. Inverclyde families will now have to travel to the children’s hospital in Glasgow to be with their children when they are undergoing treatment.

The closure creates uncertainty too for the families who have got to know the RAH staff and formed a valued, irreplaceable bond with them.

Crucially, this decision represents a further move towards centralisation against the wishes of the people who use the service. We have to hope that the decision on the fate of the ward is not a sign of things to come.

It wasn’t all that long ago that the First Minister promised there would be no centralisation of services out of Inverclyde. But the black hole in the health board’s budget that is, in my view, driving this decision is the same black hole the health board used to justify closing the birthing unit at the IRH.

There is a debate to be had about how the NHS is changing, how it should be reformed and the ways in which we can support the health service in future.

But it has to be an honest, informed debate and the people who use our health services must have a say. 

Right now, too many families feel ignored, betrayed and fearful that the closure of the kids ward is just the tip of the iceberg.