Consultation into future of health services branded a “farce”

By Local Democracy Reporter.

A consultation into the future of health services in Essex has been condmened as a “farce”.

NHS campaigners say the survey behind a consultation by the Mid and South Essex Sustainability & Transformation Plan (STP) into the future of health services was reponded to by just 0.3 per cent of the area’s population – which they say invalidates their proposals to send some emergency patients to specialised centres.

They say plans to merge hospital services provided at Basildon, Southend and Chelmsford, which could see patients treated miles away from their nearest hospital, will cost lives.

“It is frankly jaw dropping that the local STP can claim “broad support”for its plans when only one third of one per cent of people locally have responded to its so-called consultation’, said Defend Our NHS spokesperson Andy Abbott.

“We suspect rather than broad local support, far more people are not even aware of the plans. And however it is dressed up, this is about delivering another £400 million of cuts to our local NHS over the next few years. Not surprisingly in stark contrast to STP claims, there is broad opposition to these plans, including Tory led Rochford Council.”

All three A&Es in Broomfield, Basildon and Southend will continue to receive people arriving by “blue-light” ambulance, 24 hours a day.

However some pateints may be transfered to other hospitals if in a critical condition.

Women requiring gynaecological surgery who need a hospital stay would be treated at Southend Hospital, while patients requiring a hospital stay for complex lung problems would be treated at Basildon Hospital, as would those with complex kidney problems, diseased arteries or veins or complex heart problems who need hospital stays.

Meanwhile patients with complex gastroenterology problems would be treated at Broomfield Hospital.

Much of the disagreement with the proposal came from people who were
concerned about the distance they and their families would have to travel to attend specialist services.

As many as 55 per cent said a dedicated service at Broomfield Hospital for emergency general surgery that requires a hospital stay raises issues.

Meanwhile just 39 per cent were concerned about one of the most controversial proposals – to send patients with cardiovascular or stroke emergencies and those who needed a hospital stay for specialist treatment of complex heart problems to Basildon.

Mr Abbott added: “We suspect the STP never desired public engagement, which is why its consultation meetings always kicked off during the middle of the day or early evening, when most of us are either at work or travelling from work,” added Mr Abbott.

“In fact ourselves and our fellow campaigners in Halstead, Basildon, and Southend probably did more to let people know the consultation was happening than the STP. Of the 4,000 responses many have likely responded more than once, and the online survey was skewed to provide answers favourable to the STP. All in all the exercise has been a complete farce.”

Professor Mike Bewick, independent chairman of the joint committee of the five clinical commissioning groups in mid and south Essex, said: “Throughout the 16-week consultation we offered residents in mid and south Essex many different ways to share their views which, of course, included the survey itself.

“However more than 700 people attended 15 large public events, and we also held more than 40 smaller workshops for people who were most likely to be affected by the proposals.

“Others shared their views by either writing to us or contacting us through social media, and a further 750 took part in an independently commissioned telephone survey.

“All of this feedback was gathered by the campaign company and the conclusions are based on its independent analysis.

“The primary aim of consultation is not to undertake a referendum but to gain better understanding of any potential impact proposed changes may have.

“The outcome of the public consultation is an important factor in decision making which needs to be fully taken into account.

“It is, however, one of a number of important factors for which will be considered.”

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