A CONTROVERSIAL consultation which recommended closing a 40-year-old hospital and moving it to a new site five miles away is to be probed.

NHS Lanarkshire has been accused of misleading the public over its plans for Monklands Hospital in Airdrie.

It carried out a consultation which recommended moving the facility to Gartcosh near Coatbridge.

But former SNP Health Secretary Alex Neil insisted the process was “rigged” to justify closing the current site.

He previously told MSPs: “The information on which they scored was inaccurate, misleading, unbalanced and very often bordering on deliberately being economical with the truth.”

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has now asked Paul Gray, the chief executive of NHS Scotland, to carry out a review.

She said: “The Scottish Government is committed to the replacement or refurbishment of University Hospital Monklands, in order to create new modern health and specialist services for the people of Lanarkshire, and those in the Monklands catchment area.

“I have, however, noted the concerns raised about the consultation, both in the Scottish Parliament and by local people.

“In particular there have been questions over the quality of information and analysis undertaken, and the robustness and accuracy of the evidence which informed the options appraisal process.”

She added: “In order to retain public confidence in this process it is clearly important that these concerns are properly considered and responded to.

“I have therefore asked the chief executive of NHS Scotland to establish a review in order to provide me with an independent assessment of the consultation.

“Reporting back to me, it will determine whether the process has been consistent with best practice, and if it has properly taken the views of all stakeholders into account at all relevant stages.”

Scottish Labour previously forced a vote at Holyrood calling for a replacement hospital to be built on the existing Monklands site.

Party leader Richard Leonard said the latest announcement was a welcome step forward, and “a sign that finally the SNP government is listening to the clear concerns of local people, who want Monklands Hospital to stay in the Monklands community”.

He said: “Over 5,000 people have signed my petition calling on the SNP health minister to intervene and stop this disastrous decision from being taken by the health board. An independent review of the process is the least the government in Edinburgh can do.

“Closing the hospital and relocating services to an area of North Lanarkshire which is ill-served by public transport would hurt working people across the Monklands.”

Neena Mahal, chair of NHS Lanarkshire, said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s ongoing commitment to the replacement or refurbishment of University Hospital Monklands.”

“It is important that our stakeholders have confidence in the process and the outcome. We therefore welcome an independent review of the process and look forward to progressing this much needed facility for the people of Lanarkshire as soon as possible.”