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Save Our NHS Leicestershire

Leicester NHS Bosses Plan to Ignore the Public and Close the General’s Intensive Care Unit Without Consultation

By Save Our NHS Leicestershire
October 17, 2018

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Leicester’s hospital trust wants to go full steam ahead with closing intensive care (ICU) beds at Leicester General Hospital. Confirmation of their decision to do this without any public consultation is to be put to a joint meeting of the local Clinical Commissioning groups (CCGs) on 18 October.

Save Our NHS Leicestershire has been campaigning for a proper public consultation on this issue. The trust says it is transferring the beds to the other two hospitals in Leicester, but there has not been an opportunity for the public to examine and have their say on these plans. It is after all meant to be our NHS and the public should have the democratic right to scrutinise major changes in service. It would leave just one level 3 (highest level) intensive care bed in the hospital.

We do not oppose change for its own sake, but people need to know if these changes could lead to poorer services or not. What concerns campaigners is that this a step in the wider, publicly stated aim of the trust to go from three to two acute hospitals in Leicester (leaving some non-acute services on the site). This plan has not yet been consulted on and is tied together with ‘efficiency savings’. Yet we think that the removal of intensive care would risk the existence of remaining acute services at the General. In effect it would make the ‘three to two’ hospitals plan a done deal.

Associated Services also set to be Removed

Indeed, this isn’t just about the immediate moving of ICU beds, but already a number of other services that rely on them are having to move out of the General at the same time. This includes hepatobiliary (that’s to do with liver, gall bladder, pancreas and bile ducts), colorectal surgery, emergency general surgery and kidney transplant. 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.

The trust told the CCGs and local councillors three years ago that the ICU at the General had to be transferred urgently to the other hospitals because of “risks to patient safety” arising from staff shortages. So urgent was it that there wasn’t time to consult the public on the move. Yet three years later it still hadn’t happened, a delay the trust say was caused by the wait for government approval of the necessary £30 million cost of the move.

In spite of this, we now know that this money was approved as far back as June/July 2017 – providing more than enough time to consult the public even by the trust’s own standards.

Affront to Democracy

As part of our campaign, Save Our NHS Leicestershire successfully lobbied local councillors at the Health Overview Scrutiny Committee to recently call for a public consultation.

But now 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 eighteen months but didn’t.

Incredibly, 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!

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.

The trust have now raised that at the General there are “concerns over the cramped layout and appropriate facilities for patient care.” Campaigners are all for improving buildings, but why hasn’t the public been allowed the opportunity to see what the replacement facilities will include? An academic report recently highlighted that the business plan did not meet national standards for the new ICU facilities.

The trust has raised a number of scare stories about the risks if a public consultation takes place with a series of “what ifs”, like the government may withdraw the funding on the table or crucial staff may leave resulting in a collapse of the unit (which of course hasn’t happened over the last three years) and 1800 patients have to go outsider of Leicestershire for treatment. Unfortunately the local paper has repeated these stories without the ‘what ifs’ and caveats the trust had to use, making them sound like established facts. This reflects the fact that they know they have messed up and are now desperately trying to justify what they have (or haven’t) done.

Public Engagement Events

They are now planning “engagement events” to explain their plans to the public. But engagement is not the same as genuine consultation where people can have their say and change an outcome.

We do not always oppose changes, we are not ‘nimbys’ (not in my back yard). If the trust can show it is genuinely improving services we would support that move. But let the public see the workings out.

Whatever happens on this particular issue of ICU, we will continue to question and monitor local health services and we will fight any cuts and deterioration in service. Cuts have taken place or have been proposed to local community hospitals and services around Leicestershire and one of the next big questions will be the existence of the Leicester General as an acute hospital.