The decision to provide a minor injuries unit at Cossham Hospital in Kingswood can be legally overturned, say health chiefs.
The decisive statement came yesterday from Ben Bennett, programme director at South Gloucestershire’s Clinical Commissioning Group,which plans and buys local health services, after he was challenged at a public meeting by leading Cossham campaigner Reg Bennett.
The CCG has previously been asked whether it would be acting lawfully if it reversed the commitment made in 2009 to include a minor injuries unit (MIU) at Cossham as part of the hospital’s £19m refurbishment but had not until yesterday given a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
The CCG is currently consulting on the best way to provide urgent care services for patients and will not be making a decision until the autumn on whether that still includes an MIU at Cossham.
In the spring, when campaigner Hazel Szots wrote to The Week In, saying she could not get a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to her question about whether a U-turn would be legal, we put her question to the CCG and were told: “The way in which health and social care services are provided is continually evolving in response to changing health needs; as a result of new medicines, new technology and changes in national policy; and because of new evidence about best practice. The CCG therefore has to take all this into account in developing plans and when deciding how local health budgets are spent to ensure that it meets the needs of the whole population.”
However, Ben Bennett was more forthcoming when pressed by Reg Bennett at yesterday’s meeting of South Gloucestershire’s Public Health & Health Scrutiny Committee.
Reg Bennett told the committee: “I am continuously asked by the public, ‘why do we have to wait for the minor injury unit we were promised and was costed into the refurbishment of Cossham Hospital?’
“We have asked the CCG if they are acting lawfully in denying us what was agreed after long and expensive consultation but they do not answer our question.
“We have waited 18 months from the reopening of Cossham Hospital for our minor injuries unit to be installed. Clinical Commissioning Group. you are honour bound to accept those findings.”
Ben Bennett told the meeting that the CCG could legally change the plans “if there is good evidence to do so” and it had held engagement events with the community.
There was a public engagement event at Cleve Rugby Club at the end of April and Ben Bennett said there would be further consultation over the summer.
Part of the reason that a decision is not expected until the autumn is that the CCG is awaiting NHS England’s National Review on Emergency Care from Sir Bruce Keogh.
To applause from Cossham campaigners in the public gallery, Cllr Pat Apps (Labour, Kings Chase) told yesterday’s meeting: “People in this part of South Gloucestershire have had their A&E department (Frenchay) moved several miles away. Would it not be sensible to have some form of minor injuries service in this part of South Gloucestershire? We have nothing.”
Cossham reopened in January 2013 with a renal dialysis unit, X-ray and scanning department, physio and outpatient appointments and a midwife-led birth centre. Since May the hospital has also been offering a rapid access outpatient clinic for older people, and the GPs’ out of-hours service is also now based there since Frenchay Hospital closed.
More than 3,000 people have so far signed a petition calling for health chiefs to honour their commitment to include an MIU at Cossham. Campaigners are holding a protest meeting at Warmley Community Centre on Saturday 26th July from 2pm to 4pm.