Health chiefs have refused to reconsider providing a minor injury unit at Cossham Hospital in Kingswood despite a petition with over 5,000 signatures.
The call was dismissed by regional health chiefs at their meeting on Tuesday. The petition highlighting the ongoing need for a minor injury unit (MIU), which was started by a local nurse and backed by readers of The Week In, had the support of South Gloucestershire Health Scrutiny Committee.
The campaign highlighted the problems people still face having travel to seek healthcare for minor injuries in the absence of provision in the east Bristol area. Cossham reopened more than nine years ago after a major £19m refurbishment but without its planned minor injuries unit.
The petition also flagged up how the alternative to the MIU – a minor injuries service in every GP surgery in South Gloucestershire – had been ditched at the end of a two-year trial because it had failed to reduce attendances at A&E departments. Instead funding was put into Yate Minor Injury Unit. However, people heading there may find it shut as it has to close early at times of significant demand.
Lisa Manson, who is the director of commissioning at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said at Tuesday’s meeting that petitioners would be aware that in 2015 the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) had confirmed the plans of then then South Gloucestershire CCG to not commission an MIU in Cossham – and it is not something the current CCG want to consider at this stage either.
In a statement she said: “It doesn’t form part of our urgent care strategy and is not something we will be progressing. We continue to work closely with our partners and population to ensure that urgent care services best meet people’s needs.
“One of our core challenges currently is workforce across the system and a fourth unit would mean we were in a position where we had further challenges in terms of being able to recruit, so to reiterate it is not something we would want to consider at this time.”
There is an MIU at Clevedon and the third unit is the Bristol Urgent Care Centre at Hengrove.
After Tuesday’s meeting, nurse Josh Ditte who launched the petition, condemned the decision. He said: “I’m deeply disappointed they would neglect the well-being and safety of their residents relying on a GP-based model that doesn’t exist.
“As a nurse, a decision like this would be defined as neglect. Yate is not close enough for a local MIU for Kingswood. The elderly, infirm, non-drivers will be at a huge disadvantage and ultimately, will suffer.
“Recruitment is tough everywhere, I understand that. However, MIUs often recruit well due to stable working hours and would recruit many nurses who live in the local Kingswood area.
“The lives of residents are on their shoulders, their decision is a bad one. “
And June Bennett, widow of the late Reg Bennett, who led the previous campaign to get the promised unit, said she was very disappointed that the petition had been dismissed and was sure that other campaigners would be too.
She said: “It seems they have made up their mind like they did before and people’s views don’t matter. The minor injury unit is needed, very much so. We should keep pushing and hopefully they will come to their senses.”
The alternative that was trialled but dropped
Back in 2015 health watchdogs in South Gloucestershire contacted the then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to say that the promised minor injury unit at Cossham was still not up and running and they were concerned that the alternative proposal being put forward to trial a minor injuries service in GP practices would result in “inadequate provision”.
Mr Hunt asked the Independent Reconfiguration Panel to advise him – and agreed with their findings that local heath chiefs were right to consider an alternative because as new evidence emerges, thinking moves on, and what might have been considered the right course of action in 2009 – when plans for an MIU as part of the Cossham redevelopment were drawn up – was not necessarily right for 2015.
The CCG subsequently implemented the minor injury service in GP surgeries – but it was not continued after the two-year trial as it failed to reduce attendances at A&E departments. The MIU at Yate was extended instead, still leaving the Kingswood area without an MIU service.
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