An ambitious £400m capital programme aims to revolutionise Glasgow's hospital services.But can the health board convince the public, asks Barbara Millar

Site for sore eyes:£400m will transform Glasgow's services.

The days of patients suffering 'delays, postponements and trekking round hospital corridors, going to scattered departments in old or shabby buildings' could soon be over, according to Greater Glasgow health board.

Last week it unveiled an ambitious£400m phased 10-year capital programme to transform services across the city (see box).

'Our aim is a hospital service that provides the most up-to-date treatment quickly, using advanced technologies and specialist skills in settings which are modern, friendly and convenient, and achieved within the next decade, ' pledges chief executive Chris Spry.

The board has already spent£40,000 engaging public relations consultants Shandwicks. Public consultation on the scheme, which will be funded through the controversial public-private partnership, will start in April and finish at the end of June.

A public meeting is scheduled for 15 August, after which the board will put its final proposals to Scottish health minister Susan Deacon.

Mr Spry believes Greater Glasgow's approach differs from that of most UK cities.'In recent years they have cut the number of hospital sites and concentrated all services into fewer, very large hospitals - significantly reducing bed numbers at the same time.

'Our approach is cautious about bed numbers and retains local access for 85 per cent of services, such as outpatients, x-rays, day-case treatment, rehabilitation services and minor injuries services. But we also believe we can sustain it within the money we have and with the number of doctors and specialists available.'

The board acknowledges that there has been a lot of public support for the creation of a new hospital on Glasgow's south-side, to replace the Southern General and the Victoria Infirmary.The cost of providing a hospital on a new site, together with an ambulatory care centre at the Victoria Infirmary, is about£7m a year more than the board's current proposals, Mr Spry says.

The board wants the new ambulatory care centre and the phased redevelopment of the Southern General.

'That£7m a year extra would be paying for a small difference in geographical location and four years' faster completion. There are many muchneeded hands-on services for patients and local communities that£7m a year could buy, ' says Mr Spry.

Danny Crawford, chief officer of Greater Glasgow health council, says south-siders will still feel that a new hospital is badly needed because the Southern General is not central to the catchment area. He also feels that£400m - over 10 years - may not provide enough money to solve the problems of long-term under-investment in Glasgow's services, which have left many of its hospital buildings in a poor state.

Jim Devine, health organiser for Unison in Scotland, is worried that, 10 to 12 years from now, all the city's healthcare provision could be centralised on three sites - the Southern General, Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Gartnavel General. The Victoria Infirmary, Western General and Yorkhill Children's Hospital would be closed, he fears, along with a substantial part of Stobhill Hospital, with major implications for health workers' jobs.

'But, ' he adds, 'much of what is being proposed is practical'.

Anne Thompson, professional officer with the Royal College of Nursing in Glasgow, says the plans are 'one of the most radical redesigns Scotland has seen.

But we do need to be sure the framework is there to support it.The big plan looks OK.We now need to know how strong and robust the little plans are.

And we need to be sure they are clinically driven.'

Board's consultation paper offering the opportunity to comment:

Ahead start: Glasgow hospitals look to the future

Southern General, South Glasgow University Hospitals trust A massive development with 355 new beds opened by 2005 to complement the hospital's 600 'modern'beds - beds in newer buildings.The 310 'older'beds to be brought up to a good standard by 2003 and replaced during a second phase of development.This would provide all the acute inpatient services for the south-side of the city and regional/national services for neurosciences and spinal injuries. It would also have the major A&E/trauma centre on the south-side.The Southern General is also a potentially favourable location for a new Royal Hospital for Sick Children, relocating children's serv ices from Yorkhill Hospital to the site wh ich a lready provides adult and maternal health services.

Victoria Infirmary, South Glasgow University Hospitals trust A new state-of-the-art ambulatory care centre to be opened by 2004.This would include day-case surgery for the whole of the south-side.

Stobhill Hospital, North Glasgow University Hospita l trust A£30m ambulatory care centre in a vastly improved service environment is promised.A significant amount of day surgery for east Glasgow would be undertaken at Stobhill.

Western Infirmary, North Glasgow University Hospital trust This site would be used as the inpatient and outpatient centre for oncology and provide a single cardiothoracic centre for the west of Scotland.

Glasgow Royal Infirmary, North Glasgow University Hospita l trust The capital scheme under construction at the GRI will result in 600 modern beds.The hospital will also have 500 older beds.A major A&E/trauma centre in modern facilities will be created at the GRI, which would also gain a£6m orthopaedic department to complement the£53m being spent on acute services, a plastics and burns unit and maternity facilities.

Gartnavel General Hospital, North Glasgow University Hospita l trust Th is wou ld be used as the inpat ient centre for genera l medicine and general surgery for west Glasgow, by 200405. It would have a walk-in service for minor injuries/illnesses and eventually provide cardiothoracic services.