Friday, May 18, 2007

Good News and Bad News.

The combined Health Overview and Scrutiny Committees for Birmingham and Sandwell Councils met at the Sandwell Council House at 10am today with representatives of the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust.

The Trust had arranged for their appointed medical experts all Sandwell based doctors to be there with one very notable exception, Mr. Peter Ahee the Director of A&E at City Hospital. Dr. Ken Taylor was present representing City Hospital Supporters and he was permitted to contribute to the meeting.

The QUAD team again presented their data on the consultation. There was some discussion on the Towards 2010 proposals but there was general support for the new hospital but concern about how the proposals for the community component would function with the hospital.
The reconfiguration proposals were then discussed after the QUAD team had again presented the consultation results demonstrating very significant opposition to the Trust's proposals on Emergency Surgery and Paediatrics at City Hospital. Great concern was expressed that the data indicated that there had been inadequate participation by the ethnic minorities in the consultation process. It was appreciated that had more of this population expressed their views it would have made opposition to the proposals even more overwhelming.

The debate that followed on reconfiguration was extremely lively with the Chair of the Birmingham Committee Deirdre Alden expressing the very great concerns her councillors had about both Emergency Surgery and Paediatrics. Peter Ahee the Director of A&E at City once again made clear to Councillors that two thirds of the children, and two thirds of adults with surgical illnesses brought to City Hospital A&E would have to move by ambulance to Sandwell or elsewhere because they needed to stay in hospital longer than 24 hours. This is a key point as these patients would be subject to unnecessary ambulance journeys that would put them at increased risk.

I spoke briefly at the end of the meeting making clear City Hospital Supporters were fully supportive of the new hospital on the Grove Lane site. Our concern was to ensure no deterioration to emergency service provision at either hospital while we awaited the new hospital which was no more than a preliminary plan at present. I made clear that unnecessarily moving patients in ambulances and exposing them to increased risks was not acceptable especially as the Trust had rejected options that would preserve fully supported emergency services on both sites. I pointed out that however flawed, the consultation had roundly rejected the Trust's plans. I also mentioned that our petition had supported 24 hour Assessment Units in Paediatrics and Surgery and opposed moving beds in these specialties from City to Sandwell.
This meeting ended shortly afterwards at about 12.10pm.

The Birmingham Councillors then met until about 1.10pm and I was fortunate to be present when Councillor Alden announced the results of their deliberations. Emergency Surgery was to be referred to the Secretary of State for Health. The Scrutiny Committee were very concerned about the proposals for Paediatrics and she would be writing to West Midlands Strategic Health Authority to express her concerns. I believe there was mention of some monitoring and also some conditions. I will be seeking early clarification on these issues.

We now have a further great opportunity to influence the debate in the interests of patients. We will make sure that we present evidence to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel that will presumably be convened by the Secretary of State. The decision on Paediatrics is a setback but there are several avenues to be explored in this area, and this you can rest assured, we will be doing. Watch this space!

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