Around 250 Cossham Hospital campaigners gathered in Kingswood Park today before marching to a meeting at the Civic Centre in their ongoing fight for a minor injuries unit.
The campaign has cross-party political support and at the rally and meeting were local MP Chris Skidmore and Jo McCarron, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Kingswood at the next General Election.
Both addressed the meeting of South Gloucestershire Council’s Public Health & Health Scrutiny Committee, where two petitions with a total of 16,500 signatures were handed in.
A minor injuries unit (MIU) was included in the business plan for the £19m refurbished hospital in Lodge Road but whether or not it will actually open is uncertain.
Reg Bennett, of the Re-formed Save Cossham Hospital Group, told the meeting, at which there was standing room only: “We are all gathered here today to demand the services we were promised back in 2009. I don’t believe the Clinical Commissioning Group have the moral right to deny us our desperately needed minor injuries unit, especially now that Frenchay Hospital is closed and Southmead can’t cope.”
He said that an overpayment to the private company Care UK, which runs the Emersons Green NHS Treatment Centre, would have paid for the MIU for seven and a half years.
“I am told that Care UK have not met their targets over the past two years and have been overpaid to the sum of £6m. We will not get that money back. Their contract is up for renewal next year. Why are we giving our NHS contracts to private profiteers? The NHS is for people, not for profit.
“We the people of Kingswood and district, need and deserve the minor injuries unit we were promised, staffed with NHS doctors and nurses. The £6m overpayment to Care UK would fund our minor injuries unit for seven and a half years.”
Ms McCarron told the meeting that it was not right that people were dedicating so much time fighting for something that had already been agreed. “Consultation should always mean something, so it is simply unfair that local people are being forced to campaign for something they were already promised,” she said.
She said the strength of numbers and the petition said “loud and clear that the community wants the minor injuries unit we were promised”.
Mr Skidmore told the meeting that the fight for an MIU was not a political one. He said he was a huge supporter of Cossham, was a volunteer with the League of Friends and as a new father this summer had attended antenatal appointments there.
The Conservative MP, who helped to gather names for one of the two petitions handed in, thanked Jo McCarron for her campaigning work. And he reminded the meeting that the founder of Cossham Hospital had been a Liberal MP. “We are all in this together,” he said.
The decision to include an MIU was taken by the former Primary Care Trust which was replaced by the South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group.
Although the CCG says it has not ruled out an MIU, health chiefs say they are currently looking at an overall strategy for urgent care services for the whole population of South Gloucestershire and have to take into account a range of factors.
The CCG has previously stated that it does have the legal right to reverse the PCT’s decision, “if there is good evidence to do so”.
Addressing the campaigners today, Ben Bennett, programme director at the CCG, acknowledged that the MIU was a commitment that everyone remembered, and reiterated that comments and feedback were being gathered before a decision was made regarding the future of urgent care.
The MIU was not on the agenda of today’s meeting but will be at the next meeting on 19th November.