A review has been ordered into the controversial consultation process surrounding the new Monklands Hospital.
NHS Lanarkshire’s preferred option is to move the hospital to Gartcosh – about five miles away from its current site in Airdrie.
But opponents want the hospital to be rebuilt on the existing site, and claim local people have been ignored in the decision making process.
The Scottish government has now asked NHS Scotland to examine the concerns.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the review was needed to retain public confidence in the decision-making process.
She added: “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.”
Ms Freeman was responding to a 20-page letter from SNP MP Neil Gray and MSP Alex Neil, who both represent the Airdrie and Shotts constituency and want the hospital to remain at its current site.
Mr Gray and Mr Neil both welcomed the announcement, and said it was “very clear that the vast majority of people in the Monklands area do not want Gartcosh as the site for the new hospital”.
The NHS Lanarkshire consultation on the replacement or refurbishment of the hospital closed in October, with a final decision on its preferred option to be made this month.
A panel of patients, staff and partners such as the Scottish Ambulance Service had previously concluded that building a new hospital in Gartcosh was the best option.
Concerns have been raised about a lack of public transport to the village – but supporters of the move argue that the new site would be close to the motorway and that other transport links would be created alongside the new hospital.
NHS Lanarkshire chairwoman Neena Mahal acknowledged that people must have confidence in the decision-making process.
She added: “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.”
Last month, Labour put forward a motion in the Scottish Parliament as part of a campaign to “keep the Monklands in Monklands”.
At the time, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard argued that people in Lanarkshire “have been neither meaningfully engaged nor genuinely consulted” during the process.
And he accused the health board of making a “cynical attempt” to railroad through its preferred option of closing Monklands and relocating its services to Gartcosh “in the teeth of widespread public opposition”.
The new hospital will provide modern health facilities and a range of specialist services for patients across Lanarkshire, as well as continuing to be the local hospital for patients living within the Monklands catchment area.
The Scottish government, which will have the final say on the proposals, has not expressed any opinion on where the new hospital should be located.
But it has said that decision on the new hospital “should take full account of the views of the patients who will be served by the new hospital, as well as other key factors such as accessibility, transport links, travel times, and the best return to the NHS in terms of patient care.”