PLANS to set up a new mental health 'centre of excellence' at the Vale of Leven Hospital in a new link with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have been tabled by a Conservative MSP.

West Scotland MSP and Helensburgh resident Maurice Corry outlined his “vision for the Vale” with plans to create a centre for the use both of the community and the expanding HM Naval Base Clyde.

Mr Corry explained it was of vital importance to put more resources into smaller hospitals outwith big cities, such as the Vale.

He told the Advertiser: “Mental health is facing a crisis in Scotland with waiting times increasing and resources stretched.

“This makes it the perfect partnership to create a centre of excellence for mental health while securing the future of the hospital.

"The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham is a prime example of how it could work.

“I appreciate people have differing feelings surrounding the MoD, but I strongly believe that we should utilise the facilities and resources available to us to create the best health care possible for the people within our area.”

A study by King’s College London, which compared surveys of more than 7,000 military personnel, found 18 per cent of men and 25 per cent of women in the forces suffered from mental health problems, compared with just eight per cent of men and 12 per cent of women who work in other areas.

And one in eight Scots admit to using anti-depressants every day and one in three GP appointments relate to mental health issues.

In 2016, stats released by the BBC revealed 81 per cent of people saw a psychologist within 18 weeks, against a target of 90 per cent, and 73 per cent of children saw a specialist within 18 weeks.

The area’s Labour MSP Jackie Baillie told the Advertiser: “I believe that the expansion of HMNB Clyde provides a key opportunity to develop and enhance the services offered at the Vale of Leven Hospital in a number of specialist areas.

“A more strategic approach aligning the future needs and priorities of HMNB Clyde and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde would be of mutual benefit for both service personnel in Faslane and local residents.”

However, the NHS GG&C board stated it was unaware of any proposals from the Tory MSP.

A spokeswoman said: “We are always looking at ways of improving the services and facilities at all of our hospitals – including the Vale of Leven.

“The Vale plays an important role in the NHSGGC estate and our commitment is demonstrated through £393,000 of investment in the current financial year, which takes total spending to more than £4.3 million over the last five years.

“However, we are unaware of any suggestion that MoD funding should be ‘forthcoming to create and develop a centre of excellence’.”

Meanwhile, Ms Baillie has criticised the local health board after the Vale’s out-of-hours GP service was closed on Sunday.

Patients took to social media to alert others that the service was closed and the nearest available service was at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.

The future of the out-of-hours service is currently under review after the Vale unit was hit by a series of temporary closures due to staff shortages over the past year.

Ms Baillie said: “It is disappointing that we are still experiencing temporary closures almost a whole year on since the staffing issues first came to light. There may have been a good reason for the closure on Sunday but this has been going on for months.”

“Out-of-hours is a basic service which is a core component of any local healthcare system. It is not an optional extra and our local GPs agree that any plans to reduce the service would put lives at risk. Many local families don’t have access to a car and public transport to Paisley is virtually non-existent on Sundays so a whole section of our population is effectively denied access to local health services.”

An NHS spokeswoman confirmed the service was unavailable between 8.30am and 3.30pm on Sunday and pointed out that a review of out-of-hours GP services across Greater Glasgow and Clyde was ongoing.

She added: “The GP out-of-hours service at the Vale of Leven (VoL) Hospital was open for the majority of the weekend between Friday evening and Monday morning and Our home visiting service was available throughout the whole of the weekend.”

“On Sunday, however, patients referred to the out of hours GP service were directed by NHS24 to the Royal Alexandra Hospital GP out-of-hours service from 8.30am until 3.30pm.

“Whilst we continue to strive to fill every GP rota every week, we are also reviewing how best to deliver a sustainable GP Out of Hours service in West Dunbartonshire and across Greater Glasgow and Clyde in the longer term.

“The review is part of a wider discussion on how to enhance the overall out-of-hours health and social care services for all our patients.

“We would remind any patient not to attend a GP out-of-hours service without first calling NHS 24 who will direct them to most appropriate healthcare service for their needs.”