Last Thursday’s Leicester City Council Health Scrutiny Commission meeting was met by a lobby of up to sixty demonstrators, concerned with proposals that could lead to the loss of acute services from Leicester General Hospital without a public consultation.
Speaking with BBC Radio Leicester, Steve Score, co-Chair of Save Our NHS Leicestershire, explained why the lobby was taking place:
“We are worried that the removal of the intensive care beds from the General Hospital will pre-empt the potential closure of this hospital as an acute hospital and that there has been no public consultation on that.
What we need is a public consultation and we are seeking the support of the [Health Scrutiny] Committee here for the idea of a public consultation on these proposals. If they refer it to a body that can make decisions, then all the good. We want to raise it everywhere we can.”
Chair of the Scrutiny Commission Committee, Cllr Elly Cutkelvin, said it was “quite understandable” that the public were concerned about the lack of consultation and that the Committee would recommend that this matter is referred to the Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Joint Health Scrutiny Committee – the body with a duty to examine the proposals carefully and which is able to express a view in favour of public consultation. This referral to the joint scrutiny committee is a necessary first step and marks the achievement of our first campaign objective. The next is to secure formal consultation of the public.
Problems with UHL’s Plans
The lobby coincided with the publication of a significant report by De Montfort University’s Health Policy Research Unit, which outlined a number of critical problems with the proposed changes being made by University Hospitals Leicester (UHL) – the body which runs Leicester’s hospitals – to acute services at the General.
One of the authors of the report, Dr Janet Underwood, was also interviewed on BBC Radio Leicester, where she pointed to a lack of transparency in UHL’s current plans:
“Probably one of our biggest concerns is the fact that a lot of the detail is in the appendices – not in the public domain – which stops us from evaluating, fully, the plans.”
This is despite the fact that works are set to commence in October 2018!
The DMU report demonstrates how the removal of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is a part of UHL’s wider strategy of “moving from three acute hospital sites to two.” If UHL are successful in removing the ICU, it would effectively make the closure of the General as an acute hospital a done-deal when they come to consult on it in some time in the near future. This is why it is so important that we fight for a full public consultation now!
UHL first tabled plans to remove intensive care unit from the General back in 2015. The plan was given the green light by the scrutiny commission because of an alleged significant risk to patient safety – a mitigating circumstance in which a public consultation can be bypassed.
Three years on and the level three intensive care beds remain in place – but still no public consultation. One commission member, Cllr Lucy Chaplain, suggested that the commission may have been misled – perhaps unintentionally – when they agreed consultation was not needed: “the urgency of the situation [may have] been overstated.”
Savings or Cuts?
UHL say their current plans would “increase efficiency”. But we put it to you: what public service has become more “efficient” in the past 10 years? Changes in adult social care provision, in education, in emergency services – all have been justified in one way or another as “increasing efficiency”, and yet all of these services are being run into the ground!
The health service is no exception.
This is not about efficiency, it is about austerity. Today, inadequate government funding means the local NHS (i.e. in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland) has to cut (“save”) £400m from its own annual budget. Save Our NHS Leicestershire is concerned that the local NHS already does not have the capacity it ought to have to provide us all with the health care we need.
Members of Save Our NHS Leicestershire will be attending the Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Joint Health Scrutiny Committee meeting on Tuesday September 4 at 10am at Leicester City Hall (down Charles Street). We recognise that many will be at work during this time, so if you are unable to attend you may wish to contact members of the Joint Scrutiny Committee to make your views on the proposals known. You may also want to write to your local MP.
We will also be holding a public meeting on Saturday September 29 from 2pm at Hansom Hall (in the Adult Education Centre down Belvoir Street), where we will discuss UHL’s plans and what we can do to fight back.