KEITH BROWN has jumped to the defence of NHS Forth Valley after the health board was criticised for replacing televisions at hospital in Larbert.

The decision to spend £661,000 on the new sets came under fire from one Conservative MSP who said he was appalled at the cost.

Alexander Stewart, the Tory representative for Mid Scotland and Fife, said the health service was under enough pressure, without adding to it with needless expenditure.

However, Mr Brown, SNP MSP for Clackmannanshire and Dunblane, hit back by claiming that Mr Stewart didn't understand the public mood.

He said: "I have received assurances from NHS chiefs that the television replacement programme at Forth Valley Royal Hospital has been fully planned and costed in line with all approved guidelines.

"It is concerning that the Tories are criticising our NHS for ensuring patients do not experience isolation or loneliness while in hospital.

"For those who have extended stays in hospital, having access to a TV ensures a sense of normality during their time there and can make the long evenings of recovery more bearable.

"Mr Stewart has clearly misjudged the public mood and does not understand that regular patient surveys show that patients place a great worth on having access to a television."

As previously reported in the Advertiser, NHS Forth Valley approved the spend some years ago and account for a fraction of overall spending.

Mr Stewart said previously: "The health board's justification for this amount of expenditure beggars belief.

"At a time when budgets are under extensive pressure the public will not take kindly to hundreds of thousands of pounds being spent on these items.

"Cancelled operations, staff crisis situations, bed blocking and a loss of confidence in the health board's abilities to run services in the area are what the public are experiencing on a day-to-day basis.

"This type of expenditure will do nothing to rebuild that confidence. I am appalled that the board still sees this type of expenditure as a priority."

The health board responded by saying: "The replacement programme is designed to provide a better patient experience with larger screens which can be more easily adjusted for viewing.

"We know from feedback that patients and their families really value having access to a TV during their stay in hospital and the replacement programme will ensure they can continue to do this."

Mr Stewart was asked to comment on Mr Brown's comments but indicated that he did not wish to get into a spat with a fellow MSP.

However, it is understood that Tory MSP's grievances lay with the needless replacing of television sets which were in full working order, rather than having the sets for patients.