Disbelief as top officials claim the changes to Dewsbury Hospital will deliver ‘safer and better outcomes’ for local people
On a stiflingly hot night in Dewsbury Town Hall’s Reception Room, 70 local people heard Jules Preston and Martin Buckley (Chair and Chief Executive of the Mid-Yorkshire Hospital Trust) and Dr David Kelly, Chair of the North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group, trot out the familiar arguments: the changes to be implemented at are “not a downgrade” according to David Kelly who said that “centralisation of services always reduces deaths”; Martin Barkley claimed that the new “single integrated service delivered over three hospital sites” would deliver “safer and better outcomes”. Tough luck if you don’t live near Pinderfields then, where most services will be located in future.
Next month, Dewsbury will be downgraded from the current consultant-led maternity unit with a capacity for 2,500 births a year to a midwife-led maternity unit with 500 births a year in a six-bed unit – with no facilities for mothers to have an epidural to help with their pain. A&E is downgraded to an ‘emergency department providing urgent care’, the children’s inpatient facility moves to Pinderfields, and Pinderfields Hospital takes over acute surgery. It has already taken acute cardiology, leaving Dewsbury with an ‘ambulatory’ facility, and has acquired a new purpose-built facility for children’s assessments and a new resuscitation ward (3 adult beds and one child bed.) This is in addition to the new build Birth Centre for midwife led, low risk births, not needing an epidural. As some kind of compensation, it was always promised that more outpatient appointments would take place at Dewsbury but in practice many Dewsbury residents find themselves still having to travel to Pinderfields for routine appointments.
Too little time was left for questions from the audience, but those present made clear the huge credibility gap between the problem-free future being presented and their experience. Jules Preston said that a lot of services at Dewsbury Hospital were being dealt with by locums so patients are better going to Pinderfields!
Dr Kelly pins his faith in patients self-managing their conditions, ‘flexible beds’, redesigning therapies, ipads in care homes, the Locala 7-day, 24-hour call centre, and more services provided by GPs. However, asked for an assurance that all the Care in the Community Services promised were up and running, Dr Kelly admitted there were “operational pressures”. The new services were not at the level he would like to see, but they were “adequate for the changes happening at Dewsbury.” Little wonder that audience members were sceptical.
Paula Sherriff MP, speaking about her experience of visiting Pinderfields Hospital and finding A&E desperately overstretched, with a 10-deep queue of ambulances, said the time was not right for change – she was not the only one to make the point that Pinderfields is clearly overstretched and not coping. At the same time as cuts are being made to beds and services, the Trust and the CCG kept referring to unprecedented demand, as though patients are to blame. Dr Kelly wants to “get rid of people coming to hospital”. But as a member of the audience pointed out, Dewsbury is one of the poorest areas in the country and has seen a systematic dismantling of its hospital services.
The Public Meeting about imminent changes to services at Dewsbury Hospital was particularly timely in a week when leaked documents from Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Health revealed officials had serious doubts about whether they have the staff or the finances to deliver the promised ‘seven-day NHS’; when the Institute for Public Policy and Research estimated that 57,000 EU employees need to be given UK citizenship to avoid the collapse of the NHS after Brexit; and when it became clear that the latest top-down re-organisation from NHS England, the so-called Sustainability and Transformation Plans, is no more than a cover for major cuts to health services across the country.
On the subject of the West Yorkshire Sustainability and Transformation Plan, which exists but is being kept secret, despite the requirement for “public engagement” in drawing it up, there was silence.
The local campaigning group, North Kirklees NHS Support Group, which organised the meeting, has asked that the Mid-Yorkshire Trust and the North Kirklees CCG deliver regular face-to-face updates on the situation as it develops after the changes are implemented. The Group is seeking to establish key indicators which will show the impact of the changes on the health of the local population.
Note for editors
The North Kirklees NHS Support Group attends CCG and Hospital Trust Meetings, writes letters to the local papers, and aims to inform local residents about changes to their local health services. It is campaigning strongly for the NHS Reinstatement Bill which has its next reading in the Houses of Parliament on 4 November 2016. The Group hosts the campaign website: www.northkirkleesnhssupportgroup.org.uk