A few days ago news broke about the possible closure of the Ely Princess of Wales Minor Injuries Unit. As an update and a summary of the increasingly complex options for services at the hospital here is a longer than usual article. This has been compiled using information from the Keep Our NHS Public campaign who have tracked Cambridgeshire’s deteriorating health services for some time.
The organisation now responsible for planning health services in the area, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), has just been rated "inadequate” by NHS England due to its financial failings and poor performance. This inadequate label is a direct result of the collapse of the Older Peoples and Adult Community Services (OPACS) contract that cost the CCG £12 million as well as the £1 million costs simply to procure the contract. The contract was designed in part as a cost cutting exercise but its collapse has resulted in even more cuts to services.
These are some of the service cut backs that are already taking place:
Interim Care (rehabilitation beds) beds have been closed in one community hospital (Doddington). The CCG are reviewing the Interim Care beds in the other two, in Ely and Wisbech, and from the tone of their review document are likely to close them.
Outpatient clinics may be closed in the three community hospitals because the Trust that 'lost' the OPACS contract (Cambridgeshire Community Services) no longer wishes to continue to provide OP services because they no longer fit in with their new business model. Running outpatients may not be an attractive business opportunity for any of the other possible NHS providers such as Addenbrookes, Hinchingbrooke, Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals that are already under pressure or having to cut back their existing services.
A leaked report says that the closure of the minor injuries units in the three community hospitals is the only option in light of the CCG's current financial position.
The closure of the interim care beds may already be having an impact on the surrounding hospitals. Hinchingbrooke Hospital in particular has a problem with delayed discharges.
The CCG has not yet published its Sustainability and Transformation Plan although we know it has been told by NHS England to make £250 million savings (from where?) over the next 5 years. The prospect for the health service in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is one of continuing cuts driven by underfunding (our NHS funding is below the EU average as a percentage of GDP) and having to pay for the costly market system.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
The failed OPACS contract was the product of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. This was drawn up by Andrew Lansley, who at the time was Secretary of State for Health and the South Cambridgeshire MP, and Oliver Letwin MP who had already written a very helpful book entitled "Privatising the World". The central purpose of the Act was to remove the direct accountability of the NHS to Parliament through the Secretary of State, and to institutionalise a competitive market in health care provision and encourage private, for profit, sector bidding.
THE ELY MINOR INJURIES UNIT AND PRINCESS OF WALES HOSPITAL
Health services are under pressure in the Ely area. Waiting times for GP appointments can be lengthy; the PoW is under threat and many support services for people with long term medical conditions are dealt with increasingly by voluntary organisations and charities. With its rapidly growing population the area is in danger of being left with little more than GP provision. Three things are needed:
- The Clinical Commissioning Group should set set out a clear, honest statement of intent or summary of options for Ely Princess of Wales Hospital including Minor Injuries, Outpatient services and Interim care.
- The CCG as the organisation responsible need to replace the jargon heavy and woolly Fit for the Future with a health services development plan for the area matching the provision to the expanding needs of the population. This is likely to involve developing the PoW services not cutting them.
- In Ely, we need a community based campaign involving a wide spread of organisations to press for the health services we need, to ensure that a future looking plan is produced and to hold to account providers and health planners.