NHS whistle blower reveals to MP closure of minor injuries units at Doddington, Ely, and Wisbech already agreed
- Credit: Archant
An NHS whistle blower has revealed to NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay confidential documents suggesting decisions have already been made to close minor injuries units at Doddington, Wisbech and Ely.
And Mr Barclay claims that if closures go ahead the estimated 33,000 patients yearly who use these units can’t expect local GP surgeries to help since many have de-skilled since they opened.
It could mean thousands more, he said, being forced to pay for travel and parking to get to A & E hospitals in Peterborough, Cambridge or elsewhere.
The confidential report setting out the proposals of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) was shown to me by Mr Barclay and is genuine.
It was an internal report circulated in May by the group’s urgent and emergency care programme director Ian Weller.
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Mr Weller outlined possible scenarios but confirmed “the only option” is to close all three units.
Mr Barclay is furious since he believes the promised consultation due to start later this year will be a sham in the light of the whistle blower’s revelations.
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“They decided the only option is to close these and it’s all hush hush because they are going to have a consultation- but it is already decided,” he said.
“In one of the areas of highest health need they are going to take these facilities away.
“I am very alarmed since when I have made inquiries on behalf of this community about minor injuries units I have been told number of options being looked at.
“Yet this source has provided evidence that it was decided internally there is only one option; cynically they intend to have a public consultation when it appears the decision is already taken.”
The MP said he was “further alarmed” over the CCG’s plans for out patient services – for which he had successfully lobbied for a 12 month extension- but five weeks later he still had not got answers to questions about why more appointments were not being made available at Ely and Doddington.
By not offering earlier appointments locally – but instead offering those at major hospitals sooner- patients were naturally taking the earlier offer irrespective of cost, travel, parking and inconvenience.
He claims the actions of NHS bosses were “undermining the future viability of services at these local sites”.
Mr Barclay says the CCG “is not only failing to address legitimate questions I have raised but treating the community with contempt by failing to be open and going against the chief executive of NHS England about re shaping services around local communities”.
He believes the actions by the CCG are in part a response to losses of £16 million on the older people’s services contract “so they propose cutting out patients services to which we object.”
The MP said he was also waiting for responses about staffing and patient numbers at all three local sites since he feared also for the intermediate care unit at Doddington.
And in Wisbech, which he believes is “potentially more sustainable” because of the way it is funded, there still remain unanswered questions. Why, for example, has a ward been kept empty for some years “since if we are paying for it why are we not insisting on services coming across”?
He added: “It is self evident that following massive management failure of the CCG in respect of older peoples it now appears they are planning to take services from an area of clear health need to increase provision in major hospitals requiring this area to travel further and to pay in petrol and parking to do so.”
He said he will be raising the issue directly with the Secretary of State of Health “and calling on the CCG to issue urgent clarification on a number of areas”.
The CCG’s GP chairman Dr Gary Howsam said that commissioners were “looking at a number of options for the minor injury services in East Cambridgeshire and Fenland and a review is underway
Mr Barclay said the leaked report suggested the CCG had behaved in a way that was “misleading at best, it’s dishonest at worst”.
Sarah Fox, business manager of the Cornerstone Practice in March, told the MP that the minor injuries unit at Doddington “is fit what is needed in a rural location. We don’t need it to be open 8-8 and actually Doddington is good at what it does.
“However there is scope I believe for it to expand the services it offers.”
She also explained that if the unit closed they would have to invest “substantial money” in training nurses again to deal with injuries and to re-equip with the items needed to “deal with the walking wounded”.
The county council said the catchments of the clinics in Doddington, Ely and Wisbech include areas of deprivation, with any closures potentially affecting vulnerable communities.
Council leader Steve Count said: “We are disturbed by these reports and such closures are of real concern, but we really need to understand the facts and the options.
“The catchments include areas of deprivation and loss of these services could therefore be hitting our most vulnerable communities. It is vitally important that all our communities continue to have an equality of access to a high standard of health care wherever they are in Cambridgeshire. We will be seeking discussions with the CCG to establish the facts and to find out what are their plans.
“We will put forward our concerns and those of thousands of people who these clinics serve.”
Councillor David Jenkins, chairman of the county health committee, said: “We are aware that the CCG is looking at a number of options for the minor injury services in Fenland and East Cambs and a review is under away.
“If there is a change in service the CCG will have to undertake a consultation and they would then need to bring its proposals to the health committee for us to scrutinise.
“Cambridgeshire is underfunded when it comes to health so the CCG is trying to find ways forward as part of its transformation programme. We understand these financial constraints and we would work with them to challenge them and find solutions to make sure local people were not disadvantaged.”