It was highlighted during a debate in which Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore revealed that local health care managers have this week been criticised for what he called their “chop and change” approach to healthcare in South Gloucestershire.
Mr Skidmore said the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), which advises ministers on proposals for health service change, had published a report highlighting concerns with the shake-up of healthcare provision in South Gloucestershire.
Most healthcare services at Frenchay Hospital, including the A&E department, are moving to the new Southmead Hospital from May. Last December South Gloucestershire Council’s Public Health & Health Scrutiny Committee raised concerns with the IRP after the local Clinical Commissioning Group decided to temporarily relocate some inpatient beds to Southmead while investigating the final provision of beds at Frenchay.
Mr Skidmore said: “Not only do the IRP rightly observe that healthcare provision has been subject to continual alteration since 2005, but that ‘there is considerable public disquiet with the process to date’; that ‘residents of the area should feel exasperated by the years of delay’, that ‘the overall process to date has shown a marked lack of empathy for patients and the public who have a right to expect better’ and that ‘progress to date has suffered from a lack of trust from the public’.
“The IRP goes on to recommend that ‘a new approach to pubic engagement and involvement is required that demonstrates mutual co-operation and ensures that the public can have confidence in a quality service’.
“The IRP have put on record what local people and groups such as the Save Frenchay Hospital Group have long been saying. North Bristol Trust and healthcare bosses must now listen to them, and to the IRP, in light of its damning conclusions.
“I am concerned however that history is about to repeat itself at Cossham Hospital. In 2004, the hospital was threatened with closure. Then the healthcare bosses said that they knew best, that there were strong clinical reasons for shutting the hospital. Yet they underestimated the determination and resolve of the Save Cossham Hospital campaign group.
“In the end, the decision to close Cossham was reversed, and the hospital underwent a £19 million refurbishment. So far, this has included a new renal dialysis unit, an X-ray and scanning department, physiotherapy and outpatient appointments and Bristol’s first free-standing midwife-led birth centre. But the minor injuries unit (MIU) that was promised as part of the Bristol Health Services Plan, and reconfirmed by the 2009 business plan for the hospital, has not been delivered. Instead, the Commissioning Group are considering installing a rapid assessment centre for the elderly in its place.
“I feel this is unacceptable. With Frenchay A&E closing in 70 days, if local people are in need of treatment for an injury, they will have to travel 11 miles to Yate, or have to travel across Bristol to Southmead or to the Bristol Royal Infirmary. Public transport to Yate and Southmead is woeful, often taking several hours.”
Mr Skidmore said that without an MIU at Cossham, he remained concerned about healthcare provision for the east side of Bristol. He continued: “I have set out the case for a MIU to my letter to the Health Secretary on 26th February, and I would welcome the opportunity for the reformed Save Cossham Hospital Group to meet with the minister to present their case. There is a clear and present need for an MIU – and a clear and present danger to our local community if it is not delivered.
“I cannot impress upon the minister enough that I believe that, just as in the case of Frenchay, and in light of the highly critical IRP report into its reconfiguration, the ability of healthcare bosses to continually chop and change health services at Cossham and in the South Gloucestershire area, without regard to public opinion and confidence, is extremely damaging.
“The people of Kingswood and the people of South Gloucestershire, as the IRP has firmly stated, ‘deserve better’. We were promised a minor injuries unit. We want our minor injuries unit. And for the sake of the health and safety of local people in my local community, we need a minor injuries unit.”
Jane Ellison, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health, responded, saying excellent healthcare was what MPs wanted for their constituents. She said she would be happy to meet the CCG to make sure she had the clearest understanding of the issue.
The fight to get the minor injuries unit for Cossham has cross-party support with Kingswood Labour Party collecting more than 1,000 signatures on a petition urging the NHS to honour the commitment to provide it.
The CCG will be hosting a meeting to discuss the MIU on the afternoon of 29th April at Cleve Rugby Club. Health managers have stressed that no decision had yet been made.