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Health / Red Cross guest house in Aberdeen facing closure

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said the decision to shut the accommodation, often used by families of island NHS patients, is ‘very concerning’

The Red Cross guesthouse in Aberdeen. © Google 2019

THE RED Cross guest house in Aberdeen used by NHS patients from the Northern Isles and their relatives could close at the end of October amid financial pressure.

The accommodation at Claremont Place, which has 18 twin bedrooms and family rooms, has been used for years by people from the Northern Isles.

But the Red Cross confirmed this week that after “careful consideration” it has decided to press ahead with closing the guest house, which is located 1.6 miles away from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

The charity admitted that the guest house has been under-used for years, although some locals have claimed it is over-priced when it comes to families – with some budget hotels seemingly a cheaper option.

The Red Cross confirmed it will consult with volunteers and staff in the coming weeks, although it has already stopped taking bookings from November onwards.

A British Red Cross spokesperson said: “After careful consideration we have taken the decision to close the Red Cross guest house in Claremont Place, Aberdeen.

“The guest house has been in operation for over thirty years providing a space for patients and their families to stay when attending Aberdeen’s hospitals, however a long period of under-occupancy means it is financially impossible for us to continue with this service.

“Rooms cost £50 per night and occupancy over the past few years has been dropping – this year to just 20 per cent. Competitive pricing from hotels and other accommodation providers in Aberdeen has undoubtedly contributed to this, but that also acts as reassurance there are other options available for those who need it.

“Bookings are not being taken beyond the end of October, which is the intended date of closure subject to the outcome of our consultation with affected staff.”

NHS Shetland finance director Colin Marsland said the health board will “review any impact on patient travel” once the Red Cross’ consultation has been completed.

“We have been advised that the British Red Cross is currently undertaking a consultation with their staff regarding the future of their guest house in Aberdeen,” he said.

“This process, we have been told, runs until mid October. Once the British Red Cross have completed their due process and advised the final outcome concerning the future of their Aberdeen guest house, the board will review any impact on patient travel.”

Beatrice Wishart MSP. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart, meanwhile, said it was “very concerning news” for staff and families who use the “much needed service, often at very difficult times”.

“I understand that a final decision has yet to be made and I will be looking into the situation to offer any support I can,” she added.

Anne Anderson from Whalsay said the Red Cross house has been “nothing short of a godsend to me and my family over the years”.

“In highly stressful times they provide accommodation at very short notice, at inconvenient hours, with a knowledgeable and supportive back up system from staff and clientele,” she said.

“Not only do they take you in, they do not throw you out.

“I sincerely hope that some backtracking can be done till someone has the time to investigate advertising, enquiring why the downturn, widening access to the facility if need be.”

The Red Cross’ claim that the facility has been under-used has been countered by some in the isles on social media, however, who believe the guest house does not represent value for money when it comes to bookings for multiple people.

Wish Thomson, from Lerwick, said while she was sorry to hear of the impending closure, the guest house “hasn’t been affordable for years”.

She said that while the facility felt homely for children, “when a mother and child are charged £70-£90 per night stay, and more if a grandparent is joining, then it is just all round better to stay in a Travelodge or Premier Inn and get comfier beds for £25-£45 for a family room”.

“We would have kept going to the Red Cross if it was family affordable and comfortable beds that match the price,” she said.

There is very limited accommodation at some of Aberdeen’s hospitals but it is offered on an emergency basis only for relatives of seriously ill patients who need to remain close to the hospital, or relatives who have had to travel at very short notice.