Councillors slammed local NHS bosses for not taking a public consultation over plans to remove level three intensive care beds from the Leicester General Hospital.
The Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland joint health scrutiny committee said there was “deep regret” that the Clinical Commisioning Groups (CCGs) and University Hospitals of Leicester (UHL) did not listen to calls for a public consultation.
Here we look at the outcome and what it might mean for the proposals…
What’s the background?
In 2015, University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust (UHL) and the three local CCGs Leicester City, West Leicestershire and East Leicestershire and Rutland, presented an urgent case to councils saying that they needed to move the highest level of intensive care from the Leicester General Hospital to Leicester Royal Infirmary and Glenfield Hospital sites.
Because it was an urgent matter, councillors agreed the move could go ahead without public consultation.
But the £30.8 million to complete the move wasn’t secured until later in the process.
Councillors and campaigners argue that there has been sufficient time to publicly consult on the plans.
Why do bosses want to make the change?
They say that the service isn’t sustainable or efficient in it’s current state.
According to them, the biggest risk is the lack of suitably-qualified clinicians to maintain safe level three intensive care unit services across the three sites.
Why was the meeting held?
The joint health scrutiny meeting has representatives from the city and council as well as Rutland councillors.
A city council lawyer was also at today’s meeting to advise on the committee’s legal position.
Councillors wanted to hold health chiefs to account over the decision to not ask people what they thought of the plans before pressing ahead.
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What did health bosses say?
Chief executive of UHL, Jon Adler, kicked off the meeting by saying: “ We collectively rather regret the position we’ve ended up in but we’ve not engaged in a closed door conspiracy to do things out the public eye.”
They again outlined the clinical case and explained why there hadn’t been a consultation.
Isn’t it too late to start a public consultation now?
According to health bosses, yes.
Jon Adler said: “There’s no way a consultation at this stage would be manageable.”
He said that a consultation now would cost upwards of £830,000 and would seriously delay the project.
UHL and the CCGs have taken legal advice on their position.
Mr Adler added: “We could be leaving ourselves open to the possibility of being accused of a sham consultation.”
What did councillors say?
On the whole, councillors said that they agreed with the clinical case for the changes but there was collective anger towards the health bosses for the way that the matter has been handled.
Councillor Dr Lynn Moore said: “There’s a moral imperative to put patient needs above what should have been done legally and what’s got to be done legally.
“My opinion is to go ahead without public consultation because of the cost and the delays.”
Councillor Dr Terri Eynon said: “My husband was in ICU not too long ago and while they were saving his life they were also lobbying us to save the service.
“We – the relatives – were told this service – the patient – needed urgent care and there wasn’t time to consult.
“But the relatives weren’t kept up to date with the treatment.”
What did councillors do?
Seven of the 13 councillors on the committee voted in favour of a motion that noted the clinical need for the changes but criticised the way the proposals have been handled.
It said that the NHS should now go to public consultation.
The motion said: “Despite all the information provided to the committee by the CCGs and UHL, we are not convinced that any of the reasons given preclude their responsibility to carry out public consultation.
“As such, in the interests of openness and transparency, the committee recommend that the CCGs and UHL undertake public consultation before continuing with the proposals.”
What happens now?
At this stage it’s still unclear.
In theory there could be a judicial review into the lack of a consultation but councillors vowed not to take that route because they agree in principal with the move and say it’s the lack of consultation that they’re unhappy about.
What do the campaigners think?
Sally Ruane, chair of the Leicester Mercury Patient’s Panel said: “We’re pleased with what they have recommended, we’ve waited a long time for this.
“It should have been done months or years ago.
“We’re talking about a project that started in 2014 and is due for completion in 2021, a short delay of maybe less than six months, will not cause too much of a delay.”
What do UHL and the CCGs say?
Health bosses left the meeting to start talks on where they go from here.
Mark Wightman, director of communications at UHL said the group are considering their postion.
Do the changes this mean the General Hospital will close?
As an acute hospital – yes, but that has always been part of the long term plan.
The bulk of the clinical services currently provided at the Leicester General Hospital will remain including:
- brain injury unit
- younger disabled unit
- diabetes clinical service and research centre of excellence
- stroke rehabilitation
- sports medicine
- therapy services
- palliative care
- older people’s mental health
- cognitive behaviour therapy
- personality disorder
When will building work start?
Spades are ready to go in the ground.
Bosses say that work is set to begin in October or November. Whether that will change as a result of the recent meeting remains to be seen.
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