At least 100 turned away from public meeting at Rosmini Centre, Wisbech, as health chiefs again under estimate numbers wanting to protest over threat to minor injuries at North Cambs Hospital, Doddington and Ely
- Credit: Archant
MP Steve Barclay – who was sent the leaked document revealing the threat to local minor injuries unit-, was initially turned away from a public meeting last night called to discuss their future.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning (CCG) again under estimated numbers wanting to air their views with more than 100 refused entry after the hall filled up half an hour before the scheduled start time.
Tempers flared outside the Rosmini Centre in Wisbech last night as Mr Barclay – and the Wisbech mayor Garry Tibbs and local councillors Sam Hoy and Paul Clapp were told the hall was full.
“Officials refused entry and when I asked about standing at the back they still refused,” said Cllr Hoy. “They kept saying they were afraid someone might faint because of the heat.”
Mr Barclay eventually persuaded organisers to allow him and around 20 extra people into the hall to hear Tracy Dowling, chief operating officer for the CCG outline six options for the future of the minor injuries unit at the North Cambs Hospital.
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But while Mr Barclay and Cllr Hoy managed to find a spot to listen to the presentation people left standing outside, including Cllr Clapp, were becoming increasingly angry.
Cllr Hoy was still fuming as she stood at the back of the hall.
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She said: “It is utterly shambolic - they said they couldn’t find a bigger venue at short notice, but the Thomas Clarkson Academy is empty and is just up the road.”
Several people left outside resorted to hurling abuse at CCG staff that were on hand to offer apologies and hand out details of extra meetings hastily organised to ensure “everyone gets a chance to have their say”.
Among those left lingering outside was Derek Downs who calculated at least 100 people walked away from the centre disgruntled and advising others yet to reach the venue “not to bother.”
He said: “I must have seen at least 30 to 40 people walking back down the road as we came up it and they were telling people like me not to bother because we were not going to get in.
“The number of people standing outside here shows the strength of feeling there is and that people really care about the future of the hospital in Wisbech.
“I went for a blood test the other week and there was a poster on the wall that said ‘last month 4,600 people attended appointments.’ That’s in just one month; those people are going to have to go somewhere if they can’t go to the North Cambs. It is disgraceful.”
Madge Cotterell, widow of former Fenland District Council leader Mac Cotterell, was also among those refused admission.
She said: “Closing the MIU will be a total disaster. I experienced it when Mac was ill and it was an excellent service.”
Also excluded was Carol Nicholls, who was determined to get to the Rosmini Centre despite being told it was full because she felt so strongly about saving the MIU.
It was a view echoed by Jenny Walker who made use of the service two weeks ago when she suffered a bad cut to her arm when gardening.
“It is just so convenient. The care I received was excellent, the staff were excellent, you cannot fault it,” she said.
Meanwhile inside the hall Mrs Dowling was providing the 116 capacity audience with a detailed explanation of why the CCG is looking at closing the units, and what the options are with regards to the future of services not only in Wisbech but in Doddington and the Princess of Wales Hospital in Ely.
She explained the CCG is running at a huge loss and must make savings but emphasised that no decision had yet been made on the MIUs and the current round of public meetings is ‘engagement and not consultation’.
That she said will follow once the CCG has reached a conclusion on what option it is planning to carry forward.
The six options include doing nothing which means leaving the services as they currently operate. Two options involve closure of either one or two of the units with the third being upgraded to meet new government standards, due to be introduced over the next three to five years.
Another option talks about reconfiguring primary care (essentially GP services) in Fenland and East Cambs to provide a more integrated service that would include minor injuries care.
Another option would be to close all three MIUs and bring in primary care and accident and emergency staff to manage services.
Finally the CCG could invest in all three units to bring them up to the new standard, known as the Keogh standard, after the head of NHS England Sir Bruce Keogh.
The new standard would see far greater services on offer including full x-ray departments and potentially mental health care.
Mrs Dowling said the option to close all three was unlikely to be viable and that her organisation could not take such a drastic step without providing alternative care for those who suffer minor injuries.
However, she admitted that GPs would not be able to pick up the slack without additional resources, acknowledging they are already fully stretched.
She explained the process will involve the CCG taking the options to the local health senate next month for an initial response. Full consultation will be carried out once acceptable options were agreed by the senate and also undergone scrutiny by the county council’s health committee.
Among those raising questions inside the hall was Bab Watts who wanted reassurance that whatever the outcome the people of Wisbech would still have a walk-in minor injuries service.
She said: “It sounds very nice and high level, but we have a growing population. I work in education schools are getting full, lots of children in schools. Suddenly one of them needs to see somebody urgently, where on that list is an option of a walk in service?”
Mrs Dowling pointed out that minor injuries by their very nature need to be dealt with on a walk-in basis and there would be availability for people to do that whatever the outcome.
March Town Councillor Martin Field pointed the finger at central government and also at Mr Barclay saying the CCG is being forced to take action that not only do the people not want, but that the local NHS bosses themselves don’t want either.
He said local people should put pressure on Mr Barclay and central government to secure ‘proper’ funding for health services in this area.
“What we really want is for all three of these units to be brought up to the Keogh standard,” he said.
Cost of transport to King’s Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital was a recurring theme among many of those speaking out from the audience.
Among them was Ryan Tominey who said the cost of a taxi to the QEH was more than he earned in a day at work.
Dean Reeves said the talk was all about money and saving costs rather than focusing on people and their needs.
He said: “All we’ve heard tonight is the need to balance the books. But I believe people should be the first consideration. This should be about people otherwise what is the NHS for?”
And he argued the current predicament was down to “poor management” with Wisbech “carrying the considerable load”.
Cllr Hoy felt Fenland was picking up the pieces of the collapsed UnitingCare Partnership contract - the service which was chosen to look after older people in the county.
She said: “It feels as if the CCG is utterly disorganised.”
She said had it not been for Mr Barclay receiving the leaked memo “this would all have been done behind the scenes; we would never have heard about it until it was too late.”
The CCG plan more meetings:
•September 8 at March Community Education Centre, Station Road, March at 6.30pm
•September 20 Queen Mary Centre, Somers Road, Wisbech at 6.30pm
•September 21 at Chatteris Parish Church at 6.30pm
•September 27 at The Maltings, Ely at 6.30pm.