Fury at Minister’s No to Cossham unit
Published on: 30 Jun 2015
HEALTH Secretary Jeremy Hunt has given the green light to plans for minor injuries treatment centres in GP surgeries in South Gloucestershire rather than at a unit at Cossham Hospital.
His announcement has angered campaigners for the Cossham minor injuries unit (MIU), who believe the decision was kept quiet until after the general election in May.
South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said it would now get on with the trial at surgeries, which had been “paused” following protests.
Mr Hunt said it should let people know details such as the number, location, staffing, patient numbers and opening hours of the pilot centres, as soon as possible.
Eighteen thousand people signed a petition in support of the Cossham Minor Injuries Unit, which was promised as part of the reopening of the hospital in January 2013 after a £19 million refurbishment.
In a letter to Councillor Ian Scott, who was chairman of South Gloucestershire’s Council Public Health and Health Scrutiny Commission when it decided to refer the MIU changes to the NHS Independent Reconfiguration Panel, Mr Hunt said: “ I completely agree with the Panel that as new evidence emerges, thinking moves on, and what might have been considered the right course of action in 2009 is not necessarily right for 2015.
“Both the National Review of Urgent and Emergency Care Services and the local experience of Yate MIU have identified that earlier initiatives to alleviate the pressure on A&E services have not succeeded in reducing demand as hoped.
“I share the Panel’s view that a new approach is therefore needed and that the South Gloucestershire CCG is right to consider alternatives.”
The CCG welcomed Mr Hunt’s response. It said in a statement: “Developing a sustainable and effective urgent care system for South Gloucestershire, including a comprehensive and responsive community-based minor injuries service, is a top priority for the CCG and we are keen to progress this work as quickly as possible.
“We had paused the process of reviewing options for minor injuries provision while the committee’s referral was being considered by the Secretary of State. Now that the referral process has concluded we will restart our work and look forward to discussing proposals with local people and scrutiny members over the coming months.”
Councillor Scott said: “The Conservative Government’s decision not to support a Minor Injury Unit at Cossham will outrage residents and campaigners as they will clearly see that the decision has been cynically and politically delayed until after the General Election and South Gloucestershire Council’s local elections. Mr Hunt was sent the Panel’s assessment before the election, but the Conservatives chose not to announce this bad news until after they had secured people’s votes.
“The South Bristol Community Hospital has a Minor Injury Unit that is open 7 days a week from 8 o’clock in the morning till 8 o’clock at night. We could not have made it clearer to the Government that Kingswood and East Bristol residents deserve and demand the same level of service delivered at Cossham.”
He said the MIU was previously promised on the basis of need and that need was greater than ever because the area had a growing population.
Kingswood’s Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, who was re-elected in May and is a supporter of the MIU, said on Twitter that he was very disappointed at the Panel’s decision.
The matter is likely to be on the agenda of the scrutiny committee’s next meeting on July 8. The committee’s June meeting was cancelled.
‘Time to rebuild trust’
HEALTH Secretary Jeremy Hunt has again criticised South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group for failing to get its messages about changing healthcare priorities across to local people.
He said the CCG needed independent external support to “rebuild relationships and ensure that existing proposals are completed within an acceptable timescale”.
In a letter to Councillor Ian Scott, Mr Hunt acknowledged the “sense of exasperation felt by local patients and residents as their NHS services have undergone considerable organisational change since 2005, with pauses and developments and amendments to plans since then.”
He said people’s apprehension over the lack on information over the proposed pilots for minor injuries treatment at GP surgeries was understandable.
The Secretary of State noted that three CCG proposals – Cossham MIU, rehabilitation beds at Southmead Hospital, and changed plans for a community hospital at Frenchay – had been referred to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel in less than 18 months.
In February 2014, Mr Hunt said the CCG had “shown a marked lack of empathy for patients and the public, who have a right to expect better”.
In his latest letter, he said again that a new approach was needed to ensure mutual co-operation and build confidence.
The CCG said in a statement: “We welcome the IRP’s response to our request for independent support with this work and look forward to receiving further details on this from NHS England in due course.”
Councillor Scott said: “In his letter to me confirming the decision Mr Hunt sounded irritated that he has had to bother with the number of referrals that councillors have made as a result of the unravelling of local NHS services. I continue to believe it is right for councillors to speak up for local people.”
* North Bristol NHS Trust has asked us to point out that the rehabilitation beds at Southmead will remain for as long as needed.