Fight for Cossham’s minor injuries unit continues despite setback for campaigners

cossham picCampaigners are continuing to call for a minor injuries unit for Cossham Hospital, despite health chiefs yesterday agreeing to postpone a decision for another year.

Instead the South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group will pilot a minor injuries service in GP surgeries. No final decision on the long-awaited MIU at Cossham will be taken until after this alternative approach has been tested.

A total of 16,000 people signed petitions calling for the CCG to keep the promised MIU at Cossham as stated in the business plan for the hospital when its £19m refurbishment was agreed.

The CCG’s board met yesterday at Emersons Green Village Hall when members approved a report on improving urgent and emergency care services.

Board members acknowledged that there was likely to be “significant frustration and anger from local campaigners at further delays in this decision and in any suggestion that the CCG’s long-term plans may exclude an MIU at Cossham”.

And they admitted their engagement with the public could have been better and they now want to meet with local campaigners in Kingswood to explain the plans and to provide them with a specific opportunity to comment and ask questions.

Dr Ann Sephton, deputy clinical chair and lead for emergency and urgent care and community health services at the CCG, said that it was one of the lowest funded CCGs in the country.

She said she and her colleagues had a duty to provide high quality services that were accessible to all 266,000 residents living in South Gloucestershire and that viewing plans for an MIU in isolation of those wider considerations would not be in the clinical interests of the whole population.

Dr Ann Sephton

Dr Ann Sephton

She said that from experience with the MIU at Yate, many people attending did not require treatment – 60% needed advice and guidance only.

There are as yet no details yet of which of the 26 surgeries in South Gloucestershire will be taking part in the pilot scheme. However, the service is only expected to operate in normal opening hours. Staff will receive extra training and patients needing an X-ray will still have to get that done at Cossham or another hospital.

The Save Cossham Hospital Group was instrumental in reversing the original closure decision in 2004. The hospital underwent a £19m refit and reopened at the beginning of last year, providing a midwife-led birth centre, renal dialysis unit, X-ray and scanning department, physio and outpatient appointments – but without the promised MIU. The lobby group re-formed when the CCG announced that it might not happen as evidence nationally and locally suggested MIUs had not reduced the number of attendances at A&E departments.

Chris Skidmore presenting the petition in the Commons last night

Chris Skidmore presenting the petition in the Commons last night

Last night Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore presented a 2,000-name petition to the House of Commons, calling on health managers to “honour the pledge” for the minor injuries unit at Cossham.

And Jo McCarron, Labour’s prospective Parliamentary candidate for Kingswood, said the CCG had “ignored the overwhelming call for a minor injuries unit at Cossham”.

She addressed the board meeting and earlier in the day spoke at South Gloucestershire Council’s Public Health & Health Scrutiny Committee. Cossham was not on the watchdogs’ agenda yesterday but the CCG’s decision will come before them on Wednesday 19th November.

Ms McCarron said:  “Over the last six months, the CCG has failed to get across why they don’t think an MIU is needed and why urgent care services could be delivered more effectively without the MIU. They repeatedly stalled, delaying their decision and giving no indication as to their thinking. They held an ‘engagement event’ at which the Save Cossham residents’ group were told they wouldn’t have an opportunity to comment.”

She added: “Of course if what is being proposed would provide more effective urgent care across the community, I would welcome it and so would local residents. But after the community hospital was downgraded at Frenchay, the fear has always been that promised services will once again be downgraded. The CCG says in its report that urgent care will be provided not at Cossham but at other local facilities, but we still don’t know where these facilities will be.”

She welcomed the CCG’s offer to meet the Cossham campaigners and “start to rebuild some of the trust that has ebbed further and further away”.

Ian Boulton, a South Glos councillor for Staple Hill and Labour’s prospective Parliamentary candidate for Filton & Bradley Stoke, also addressed the board. He said that the MIU, which was part of the Bristol Health Services Plan, was the “missing piece of the jigsaw”.

Reg Bennett

Reg Bennett

Today Reg Bennett, the leading figure in the re-formed Save Cossham Hospital Group,  said: “We will be back leafleting next Tuesday and Thursday in the Kingswood precinct, starting the build-up to our demonstration on 19th November.”

Although there is no MIU at Cossham, a rapid access outpatient clinic aimed at older people opened there earlier this year. This means GPs can refer patients straight to a specialist geriatric consultant at short notice, helping patients avoid going into A&E at Southmead or the Bristol Royal Infirmary.

A wounds dressing weekend service at Cossham also started this summer and since the closure of Frenchay Hospital in May, Cossham has become the base for the local out-of hours service (accessed through NHS 111).