WHALTON UNIT: Have a right to be consulted

I write neither in support of the Whalton Unit remaining in Morpeth or in support of it moving. As a doctor in the North East of England for many years, I am very much aware of the profound effects decisions to move or reconfigure services have on the communities they serve.

Friday, 14th December 2018, 07:00 am

Any decision to reconfigure healthcare services should involve public consultation.

The need for public consultation is for a multitude of reasons.

Should the need to change a service be vital then public consultation serves as a way to understand and address the concerns and consequences of such a change. Where the need to reform is less clear consultation serves to help understand implications, hear concerns and act as a forum to make sure service redesign is the best it can be.

For readers not involved in day to day healthcare simply searching on the internet for ‘primary care home’ or ‘care closer to home’ will highlight the NHS forward view and drive to bring more services out into communities and certainly not take them from communities back into hospitals.

As for difficulty staffing the community hospitals, readers may also be interested to read that Executive Director of Nursing at Northumbria, Marion Dickson, recently indicated that there was nothing of alarm about staffing at community hospitals stating that the staffing levels were safe and they ‘just need to keep an eye on’ staffing at community hospitals.

I also am puzzled as to how the new £15million extension to Cramlington Hospital can be staffed if there is difficulty already recruiting for current sites.

In some respects the Trust seem to indicate we should be reassured the move is only for the winter period, a ‘temporary move’. However they also suggest they will review the situation in summer before deciding on the long term situation.

Given no assessment will be done until summer 2019, which will almost certainly take a couple of months if the public and stakeholders are to be consulted, we will find ourselves in winter 2019 and thus, I suspect, facing the Whalton Unit remaining at Wansbeck for the winter 2019 pressure.

As for ‘winter pressures’ in the NHS, this is not something new.

The idea that sudden decisions need to be made with only a few weeks notice seems at best disingenuous and at worse a demonstration of poor winter preparedness and a disregard for careful consideration.

I would strongly urge the local NHS providers and local stakeholders to furnish people with the facts behind this proposal, as demonstrated above, many contradictory statements seem to be in circulation. Allow people careful consideration of the facts in a meaningful consultation.

As we are repeatedly told it’s our, the public’s, NHS. We have a right to be consulted.

Dr James Lunn

B.Med.Sci. (Hons.), B.M.B.S. (Hons.), D.R.C.O.G.. n.M.R.C.G.P.