Around 100 campaigners packed into the council chamber at Kingswood Civic Centre today to show their support for the promised minor injuries unit at Cossham Hospital which is now in doubt.
The community hospital reopened a year ago after a £20m refurbishment and provides the area’s only midwife-led birth centre, as well as a renal dialysis unit, X-ray and scanning department, physiotherapy and outpatient appointments.
A minor injuries unit (MIU) was also part of the deal drawn up in 2009 when the hospital was saved from closure, but now health chiefs are thinking of using the accommodation set aside for the MIU as the base for a rapid assessment service for frail, elderly patients.
At today’s meeting of South Gloucestershire Council’s Public Health and Health Scrutiny Committee, health managers were keen to stress that no decision had been made. They also announced there were plans to base an out-of-hours unit for for GP practices at Cossham from May, which is when Frenchay Hospital closes in May.
The move away from the promised MIU has caused anger among local people who fought to keep Cossham open when local health managers proposed it be closed.
Among the speakers at today’s meeting was a leading light in the original campaign to keep Cossham open, Reg Bennett. He told the meeting that people in the Kingswood area wanted the NHS to “finish the job they were commissioned to do”.
Campaigners say the fact that Frenchay Hospital, with its A&E department, is closing this summer means that local people needing urgent medical treatment are faced with the prospect of a journey into Bristol to the BRI or across the city to Southmead Hospital, which is badly served by public transport.
A letter was also read out from Kingswood’s Conservative MP Chris Skidmore who said: “The business plan drawn up in 2009 clearly stated that along with the current new hospital facilities, there would be a minor injuries unit at Cossham. This was agreed not only in principle, but with the agreement of the local community. I understand that the South West Commissioning Support at North Bristol NHS is now reconsidering its options.
“I would therefore urge the committee to send a strong message of support for Cossham Hospital and a minor injuries unit to be installed there. If plans emerge otherwise, I would respectfully request that the committee uses its powers to refer any potential decision to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel. ”
And Labour’s Jo McCarron, who is aiming to oust Mr Skidmore at the General Election, addressed the meeting. She said: “It’s a complete breach of trust to deny local people the services they were promised – I will do all I can to work with the community on the growing campaign to demand a better deal at Cossham and Frenchay.”
The committee heard from health chiefs that experience nationally and locally at Yate has been that minor injuries services do not necessarily result in a proportionate reduction in attendances at hospital Emergency Departments.
But Veteran Kings Chase councillor Terry Walker got cheers and a round of applause when he told the meeting: “A minor injuries unit was promised and that’s what we want.”
A further report on Cossham’s facilities will be brought to the next meeting of the Public Health and Health Scrutiny Committee and it is envisaged that a plan will be set out to involve local people in a wider discussion.