As NHS campaigners, patients, and members of the public we are furious that those running Leicester hospitals are taking a significant step towards closing Leicester General as an acute hospital without any public consultation.
University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust (UHL), which runs the local hospitals, plans to remove the intensive care unit from the General, leaving only one Level 3 bed – needed for the highest level of care. They are also moving other services such as renal transplant. This is a major change in service delivery and the public should be allowed to have a say on it.
We are also very concerned that the removal of the Intensive Treatment Unit (ITU) at the General will effectively lead to the closure of the hospital as a whole. Indeed, for many years it has been the intention of UHL (as outlined in their “Sustainability and Transformation Plans”) that Leicester should move from three to two sites. By removing intensive care they are effectively closing the hospital by stealth and without consultation.
As the Winter crisis in the NHS (now an annual event) clearly indicated, services are already stretched to breaking point. We currently do not have enough capacity for both emergency and planned admissions in Leicester.
Concentrating even more services onto the Glenfield and the Royal Infirmary will not solve this problem, especially given the pitiful amount of money being made available for the task.
UHL say their current plans would increase efficiency but the problem is that because of inadequate government funding the local NHS is having to cut £400m from its own budget every year. That is what is driving plans to hold down bed numbers below what is needed and to sell off NHS land.
This is not about efficiency, it is about austerity. Staff and users are both set to lose out if these plans go ahead.
But the biggest blow is that they think they can get away with this without consulting the public. If UHL was really interested in promoting “patient choice” then shouldn’t the public be allowed a voice in major service changes?
On Thursday August 23, Leicester’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Commission will be meeting at Leicester City Hall at 5:30. We will be holding a lobby outside, beginning at 4:45, to highlight the threat to the General and with the aim of gaining the Commission’s support for a genuine consultation and ultimately the rejection of this plan.
The campaign to save the Heart Unit at Glenfield showed that when we fight together against unjust proposals, we can win. Now we need to mobilise again in defence of the General.
Tom Barker. Secretary, Save Our NHS Leicestershire