Campaigners have accused health bosses of ‘scaremongering’ and ‘sensationalising’ after they revealed plans to press ahead with the removal of intensive care beds at Leicester General Hospital without public consultation.
The fact that the public have not been asked for their opinions on the downgrading of services at the Evington-based hospital has been the subject of a row between the area’s three clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust (UHL) and campaigners for some time.
Late last month the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Commission (HOSC) – made up of councillors from Leicester City Council, Leicestershire County Council and Rutland County Council – voted in favour of a motion directing UHL and the CCGs to halt the plans and to start a public consultation.
Papers released today outlined the CCG’s plans to progress with the plans due to concerns over patient safety and the risk of losing the £30 million of capital funding they have received from NHS England for the improvements.
Steve Score, co-chair of the Save our NHS Leicestershire campaign, said: “The report to the CCGs is deliberately being sensationalist in order to convince people of their case.
“The quote it has on 1,800 patients being forced to go elsewhere is purely speculative based on the idea of “what if” we lose key clinicians and the unit becomes unsustainable. But it hasn’t happened in the last three years.
“The public is being presented with a fait accompli. The fact remains that a public consultation on these changes could have taken place over the last three years but didn’t. We are now being told to have one now would not be based on fair principles because the decision has already been made behind our backs anyway!
“This isn’t just about the immediate removal of intensive care beds, but also a number of other services that rely on them.
“The trust says that its decision doesn’t prejudice a future consultation on their plan to end the General as an acute hospital, but it is clear that the remaining services could be affected by the lack of level 3 intensive care beds.
“There are issues of staff recruitment and retention, but this is true of the NHS as a whole and national policy on pay and conditions for staff as well as nursing and medical students. Behind that lies underfunding of the NHS and public services nationally.
“If the issue is cramped facilities, why hasn’t the public been allowed the opportunity to see what the replacement facilities will include?”
Papers that will go before the CCGs’ collaborative commissioning board later this week lists services that will remain at the Evington based hospital as:
- • brain injury unit
• younger disabled unit
• diabetes clinical service and research centre of excellence
• stroke rehabilitation
• sports medicine
• therapy services
• palliative care
• older people’s mental health
• cognitive behaviour therapy
• personality disorder
The report explains: “The services remaining at LGH may occasionally require level three support and the trust will therefore continue to provide and staff a level three ICU stabilisation bed at the LGH along with a transfer service.
“Both of these will be available 24/7.
“It is important to recognise that level two High Dependency Unit (HDU) beds will remain at the General Hospital site.”
Kathy Reynolds, of the Leicester Mercury Patients Panel said: “According to legal requirements, substantial changes to service delivery such as the removal of intensive care and other services from Leicester General Hospital should have been subject to full public consultation.
“The three CCGs make clear they are still refusing to consult the public on this matter.
“Instead they say they will listen to what patients have to say in ‘engagement meetings’ which have in fact been set up for other reasons. This is a weak substitute for proper consultation.
“At the same time, it suggests that, whilst not admitting it explicitly, the CCGs recognise they have not fulfilled their legal duties to the public. Until they publicly recognise they have not fulfilled their legal duties they fail to rebuild public trust.
“They say that “the planned changes increase intensive care capacity and have been designed in a way that does not make further future changes to other services at the General Hospital site inevitable”, and fail to mention that, as a result of removing intensive care, a substantial range of other services is also being removed from the General Hospital.
“We have found that many members of the public have been unaware that so many services are scheduled to be moved out of the General Hospital.
“The CCGs have had well over a year in which they could have fulfilled their legal duties to the public and have failed to do so.”
Coun Dr Terri Eynon, added: “Having seen the risk patients are running every day because of the way our intensive care units are set up, it definitely needs sorting.
“I imagine that most people who have had a relative in one of our local intensive care wards would say that the risk of a judicial review is worth running if improvements to the service are made.
“My husband was at death’s door and consultants were asking us to help them get the improvements made.
Surprising health hacks
“He was at the Royal Infirmary when he really should have been at the Glenfield where the specialists he needed were, so I’ve seen how having two centres can cause problems, at the moment there are three.
“We were told that this was clinically urgent three years ago and it then didn’t go ahead. Since then there has been time for a consultation and there should have been one.
“The fact that there hasn’t has led to a breakdown of trust between campaigners and the people making decisions.
“This outcome won’t help that but patient safety has to be the priority.”
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