NHS BORDERS' chief executive has launched a public consultation on the health board's direction over the next three years.

Ralph Roberts was in Walkerburn on Tuesday for a meeting of the Tweeddale Area Partnership.

His appearance was in advance of the consultation's first public session, set to be held in Peebles Community Centre on November 14 from 2pm-7pm.

Speaking about Peeblesshire’s situation, Mr Roberts said that one area of concern is Hay Lodge Hospital in Peebles, the buildings of which he said would not be fit for purpose in 15 to 20 years' time, "if indeed they are now".

“Do people want rehabilitation in a community hospital or discharge straight to home?” he added.

“The consultation is about where we think NHS Borders is at present and where we need to go,” said Mr Roberts.

“The NHS must keep evolving and is a very different service now to what it was in 1948.”

He added that a series of meetings with the community up until March will be about long-term plans for the health board, foresight he said had been lacking in recent years.

“We want to have robust and honest conversations about what is important for the community," he said. “We need to focus [more] on keeping people well than on fixing problems when they occur.”

“We need to design our services for what works in the Borders.”

During a question-and-answer session, Peter Maudsley, chairman of Peebles Community Council, said: “Three years is a very short space of time, I am surprised you are not looking over five to 10 years for the plan.

“One thing is that there is a shortage of doctors, should there not be something in place to keep trained doctors here for a period of time?”

Mr Roberts said that NHS Borders' workforce had grown by 17 per cent in 10 years. He said that if it keeps growing at that rate, 70 per cent may work in health which would not leave enough people in other sectors to pay for the system.

Christopher Lewin from Broughton, stepping away from the consultation discussion, questioned Mr Roberts on pandemic planning in the coming years.

Mr Roberts said: “The question of what flex are we willing as a society to have in the system and what capacity should be carried, just in case, is a question for the pandemic inquiry.”

Tweeddale East councillor Julie Pirone questioned the current system for dealing with acute mental health issues.

Ms Pirone said that when someone has a mental health crisis they are taken to accident and emergency by two police officers who are then tied up till a bed is found.

Ms Pirone said: “We need to have one place where they are admitted.”