NHS bosses have been told that, subject to public consultation, they will receive government funding of £450m to implement their controversial reorganisation of hospital services across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Formal public consultation will last for 12 weeks between 28th September and 21st December 2020.
What will change?
- Leicester General Hospital will close as an acute hospital and most of the site will be sold for other use. The only University Hospital of Leicester services remaining on the site will be the Diabetes Centre, an imaging hub (CT scans etc) for GP referrals, and possibly an administrative block. A midwife-led unit may be created on a trial basis. 26 day case specialties, 23 inpatient specialties and 34 outpatient specialties will all be removed.
- Much of the remaining publicly owned land and buildings at LGH will be sold-off. Services from the General will then be crammed into the sites of Royal Infirmary and the Glenfield.
- All maternity services will be transferred into a new maternity hospital on the site of the Royal Infirmary, with the possible exception (pending the outcome of the consultation) of a midwife led unit on the site of the General though this may turn out to be temporary.
- St Mary’s Birthing Centre in Melton Mowbray will be closed.
- A children’s hospital will be created at the LRI through refurbishment.
- There will be a new planned care Treatment Centre at the Glenfield.
- The number of intensive care beds will increase from around 50 to 100.
Leicester General Hospital. Areas circled in red to be sold off
Why you should be concerned
Impressive brochures, consultation documents and leaflets will be coming through your door to sell you these plans, but we are concerned that they will create a number of serious long term problems for people in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Save Our NHS Leicestershire welcomes additional investment in our hospitals, which have been starved of funding for many years, but we also have many serious concerns about the current plans.
Not enough beds
Despite the vast sums being spent, the two remaining reorganised hospitals will not be big enough. Although additional theatres and intensive care beds are welcome, there are no apparent plans to expand the number of hospital beds after 2024 despite large population growth projected for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland in the coming decades. NHS bosses plan to spend all this money while admitting they have not costed the new buildings to be carbon neutral (University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust Board Meeting, Sep 2020).
Can community services take up the slack?
NHS bosses says that an expansion in community services, including treatment at home, will compensate for the rising need for hospital beds. However, we cannot be confident from the documentation that community services will be provided on the scale needed to compensate for the declining number of beds per head of population. At present we have neither sufficient hospital beds nor sufficient community services. The documentation does not mention the profound crisis faced by community-based care due to years of austerity.
Lessons from COVID-19
The plans do not consider the important lessons from the pandemic. Outside of the consultation documents, the ‘detailed’ proposals, of more than 1,500 pages, make no reference whatsoever to Covid-19 and pandemic preparedness. This is a surely a serious mistake and suggests that their plans are, at best, out of date. We need extra room and more capacity to allow flexibility in the use of space. Selling land at the General does the opposite.
Maternity on one site
The consultation document asks whether you would like to see a midwife led unit on the site of the General Hospital. If approved, this would be done on a trial basis only. If it is not used adequately (a minimum of 500 births annually), they say it will close without consultation. The detailed plan states that the trial period would be for one year only, more or less ensuring its failure since who would book to have a baby in a venue which may not exist by the time the baby is due?
In addition, St Mary’s Birth Centre in Melton will be closed. If the midwife-led unit at the General fails, this would mean that all maternity services would be provided at the Royal Infirmary. We are concerned that the risks associated with requiring all births (excluding home births) to take place on one site have not been considered. The roads around the LRI are frequently gridlocked with traffic.
Risk of privatisation
One of the founding purposes of the NHS is to provide treatment for all free at the point of use. But because of cuts and underfunding, these principles have been under pressure with
some treatments difficult to access or available only after lengthy waits. We are concerned that, by providing for less need than we will have, the plans will only deepen the involvement of the private sector, where profits not health is the main goal.
How will the public be meaningfully consulted during lockdown?
The public have a legal right to be meaningfully consulted when major changes to the NHS are proposed. These proposals involve the closure of a hospital – and yet local NHS leaders have decided to call a formal public consultation during our first Covid-19 autumn and winter. It is questionable as to whether the conduct of the consultation – with all meetings online and tightly controlled– will meet legal requirements or whether a subsequent judicial review would find the consultation exercise unlawful.
What you can do
We think more information is needed before we can complete the questionnaire where they ask for our views and we are suggesting supporters and the wider public wait until there has been more debate and more information provided before filling in the consultation documents. Formal public consultation on these plans will last for 12 weeks between 28th September and 21st December 2020. We ask you to use this time to read some of the documents, engage with the debate, hear what the NHS bosses have to say as well as campaigners.
We invite you to get involved. NHS bosses may intend to push through these plans without an adequate consultation, but if we get organised we can challenge and improve their plans and create hospitals that are fit for purpose, now and long into the future. We need you to help us! Get in touch today.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 07896 841 902