Friday, December 28, 2007

Some sobering thoughts for 2008.

2007 is ending on a sad note for the people relying on City Hospital for its care. Impossibly bad decisions have been made affecting the future of that hospital by people who neither have the interests of the patients or the hospital at heart.

As a result of City Hospital Supporter's efforts we will see a 24 Hour Children's Assessment Unit and hopefully a 24 Hour Surgical Assessment Unit but essentially these two groups of patients have been condemned to second class care like no other patients in Birmingham.

The management of the Hospital Trust is pushing ahead with its plans for children and surgical services which do not have the support of the community served by City Hospital or the consultant medical staff working there. These plans will provide a worse service for patients and relatives and have been shown to be unnecessary by the relevant staff with the children's doctors even producing a plan that would have saved the Trust a lot of money.

It was very unfortunate that the Birmingham Health Scrutiny Committee referred only the proposed changes to Surgical Services to the Secretary of State but not those to Children's Services. This immediately laid that Committee open to the criticism that if they would permit children to be treated in this way then what was wrong with it for surgical patients?

City Hospital Supporters always had doubts about the word "Independent" in the title of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel. It is a government-funded body with close links to the Department of Health. This Panel demonstrated its alignment right at the start by appointing the local Director of Reconfiguration who had drawn up the plans to which we were objecting as their lead person organising the timetable of visits. Our concerns strengthened when the Panel refused to hear anything related to Children's Services. Clearly they felt they could save time here if they had no intention of objecting to the plans for Emergency Surgery. Furthermore although they were considering services to surgical patients they did not have a surgeon on the Panel. The only doctor was a Medical Oncologist not a surgeon. Turning to their account of their findings on the website it is notable that they do not record that they met a fourteen person team from City Hospital Supporters Group nor do they provide any coverage of the case that was presented with supporting evidence. The Trust's position is restated and none of the statements are challenged. Having spoken to a number of people there is agreement that the Reconfiguration Panel is a rubber stamp for the Trust's plans and their assessment is completely worthless.

The community served by City Hospital need to remember that the Heart of Birmingham Primary Care Trust has been complicit in these plans. Their local MPs have done nothing to stop the downgrading of their services, worth bearing in mind when election time comes round once more.

What of the future? The Trust is going for "Foundation status." Do they really have the confidence of the local community? The community whose opinion they asked during the consultation and then ignored it completely. Is this what local accountability is all about? The future is meant to be all about polyclinics with as much as possible being treated in the community. Will this give better patient care? There is no evidence that it will. Will it be cheaper? Almost certainly not the case. Will it be at the expense of hospital care? We fear that it will be. Apparently the only buildings to be left standing on the City Hospital site will be the Birmingham Treatment Centre, the Sheldon block and the Birmingham Eye Centre. No doubt the rest of the site will be cleared and the land sold to the developers for housing and shops.

Will there be a new hospital on the Grove Lane site within the next ten years? Do Sandwell residents want to travel to within a mile of City Hospital for their care? If they do why not go the extra mile and use the land that is already available on the City Hospital site, saving much time, money and trouble.

After all the expenditure of capital money in the community will there be enough for a new hospital? Is the plan to leave the hospital care needs of West Birmingham to the newly rising University Hospital? Will there be enough room in this new hospital? It will be accommodating the patients from the QE and Selly Oak as well as providing for many Regional Specialties. Additionally we are going to see a new town rising on the rubble of Longbridge which will add significantly to the catchment population. Will it cope? Will there be enough beds? Will the numbers of people trying to gain access to this super hospital as patients or visitors overwhelm the transport infrastructure?

If the SWBH Trust, the Heart of Birmingham Primary Care Trust and the Reconfiguration Panel had really been thinking about the welfare of the people of West Birmingham they would have maintained full services at City Hospital until the new hospital opened its doors. The fact that this has not happened more than anything else must cast serious doubt on the long-term intentions of these people.

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