Save Our NHS Leicestershire’s petition calling for a consultation on the planned removal of intensive care from the Leicester General closed on Friday, with nearly 2,000 signatures (804 paper and 1132 online).
The closure of the petition coincides with the end of University Hospitals of Leicester’s (UHL) public engagement exercise – a series of meetings held around the county where local NHS bosses explained their plans to reconfigure local services to the public.
Many of these meetings were exceptionally poorly attended, with reports that as few as 2 people were at one. Where they were better attended it was generally a result of the campaigning work done by Save Our NHS Leicestershire, Campaign Against NHS Privatisation and other local groups.
Engagement, it should be noted, is not the same as consultation. Engagement can be a one-way conversation, where nothing the public says can make any difference. So not only did the local NHS fail to properly consult the public (which could have allowed the public to have a say), but they also failed in their limited commitment to engage them.
As our 2,000-strong petition demonstrates, people in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are not uninterested in hearing about plans to change local services. However, it might be that people see no purpose in attending meetings about proposals over which they have no say. In reality, limited effort was made to ensure that people attended these tick-box meetings.
In addition to closing the General’s intensive care unit without a consultation, the local NHS’ current plans to reorganise local hospital services, which will cost £367million, fail to recognise that the number of hospital beds across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland will need to increase in the coming years – not stand still! Perhaps that is why the detail of these plans has still not been shared with the public.
With the current crisis currently facing the health service (noted in the Leicester Mercury article “Big rise in cancelled ops” published on December 7), both in Leicester and nationally, these plans go no way toward futureproofing the NHS.
Save Our NHS Leicestershire welcomes investment in the NHS, which has been starved of funds by successive governments, but we cannot support plans which are clearly inadequate in addressing the lack of capacity currently faced by local services. We need an increase in the capacity of our services not a stand still.