Friday, June 29, 2007

City Hospital Supporters Appeal to New Prime Minister.

A letter was dispatched to Mr. Gordon Brown on the day he became Prime Minister. The idea to write to him was inspired by his declaration that he intended to make the NHS and listening to local people his top priorities. Undoubtedly he has the chance to do so right here in Birmingham with the City Hospital Reconfiguration debacle.

Dear Mr. Brown,
Firstly I am writing this open letter to you on behalf of the City Hospital Supporters Group in Birmingham and we would like to congratulate you on becoming the new Leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister. We were delighted to hear this most welcome news. We were also very pleased to hear that you were to make the NHS one of your top priorities and were particularly delighted that the views of local people were to be listened to.

City Hospital is the hospital closest to Birmingham City Centre. It serves the 4th most deprived district in England with wards such as Ladywood, Handsworth, Soho and Aston. Its A&E Department saw some 103,000 referrals over the last year with approaching 20,000 children. The hospital has an excellent A&E Department that has developed special expertise as it sees more penetrating injuries from gunshot and knife wounds than any hospital in the Midlands and probably the whole country.

City Hospital Supporters is a recently formed group consisting of members of the community served by the hospital and members of staff of every occupation. We are committed to ensuring that the community continues to receive the same high quality of care they have been used to, provided by City Hospital. This hospital had its own Trust Board until a few years ago and it then merged with Sandwell Hospital NHS Trust. The long term plan is to replace the two existing hospitals with a single hospital in Grove Lane Smethwick that will serve a combined population of 500,000. City Hospital Supporters endorsed this development when it went out for consultation in November last year. The new hospital is but a plan at present at a very early stage. Finance has to be organised throught the Private Finance Initiative, the land purchased and the building plans produced. The new hospital will not open its doors before 2013/14 assuming no slippage.

Our major concern is the Interim Reconfiguration Proposals recently approved by the Trust Board. These proposals would see inpatient Paediatric and Emergency Surgery beds moving from City Hospital to Sandwell Hospital with 24 Hour Assessment Units being established in these specialties at City Hospital. City Hospital is the larger hospital with 1100 beds compared to 400 beds at Sandwell. It serves a socio-economically deprived population and one with a very high concentration of the ethnic minorities. Some 50% of families are without their iwn car and public transport links are not good.

If the Trust's proposals were implemented about six of the children admitted and about 12 of the adult surgical patients who were admitted via the 24 Hour Assessment Units each day would need to be moved to the beds at Sandwell because they needed to stay in hospital longer than 24 hours. These journeys would not be medically necessary as they would not be moving patients to higher levels of care such as Intensive Care or High Dependency beds, they would be moved to ordinary ward beds. This has to be unacceptable care in the 21st century for the hospital at the centre of England's second city.

The actual formal consultation was flawed because the ethnic minority population was not effectively addressed. However those who returned consultation forms rejected the Trust's proposals for Emergency Surgery 47.2% to 31.4% and for Paediatrics 45.6% to 29%.

As if this were not bad enough these proposals fly in the face of the Trust's own Racial Equality Policy. This is because from data provided by the Trust on their website City Hospital has an inpatient population consisting of 45.9% ethnic minorities against Sandwell 13.4%. Thus ethnic minority patients at City would be unfairly disadvantaged and put at greater risk. A complaint has been made to the Commission for Racial Equality and I understand that it is being investigated.

Last week a secret ballot of all the consultants at City Hospital drew to a close. 97% of those retuurning ballot papers supported the prospect of the new hospital but opposed losing the Paediatric and Emergency Surgery beds. Only two ballot papers were received voting the other way and we had an overall majority of 57.9%. No previous ballot had been conducted by the Trust.

I am sure you will agree that this is a totally unacceptable situation, particularly as the Trust did have options on the table that would have preserved Emergency Services at both hospitals until the new hospital is built. These options would have been perfectly acceptable to City Hospital Supporters. The good news is that the Birmingham City Council Health Scrutiny and Overview Committee has referred the Emergency Surgery proposals to the Secretary of State for Health who has to decide if referral should be made to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel. However Paediatrics has not been referred.

This is a very clear example of the local community not being effectively consulted about a major change to the provision of their hospital services. In spite of the flawed consultation they have rejected a reduction in services at their local hospital, but they have been ignored by the Trust. The senior doctors at the hospital have spoken with one voice on the Trust's proposals but to date it has had no effect.
Referral of both the Emergency Surgery and the Paediatric plans to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel would at least give us a chance to present the facts to an independent and external group of people, so that the case for preserving effective emergency services at City Hospital until the new hospital opens could get a fair hearing.
With kind regards and good wishes for the future.

Yours sincerely.


On behalf of City Hospital Supporters Group.

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