By Local Democracy Reporter
THURROCK councillors are preparing to ask the Government to review a major healthcare transformation scheme including the closure of Orsett Hospital.
They will be meeting together next week to finalise arrangements.
The hospital’s closure is one many major changes that have been proposed by the NHS’ Mid and South Essex sustainability and transformation partnership (STP) and the referral could impact the whole county.
If Health Secretary Matt Hancock agrees with the council’s Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which has raised serious concerns about the hospital’s closure, it could stop the plans entirely.
This would also throw £118million of additional NHS funding for Essex into jeopardy and potentially end plans to build four medical centres in Thurrock, which are due to replace Orsett.
The four “integrated medical centres” are at various stages of planning and promise to include all services currently provided by the hospital.
However, it was revealed in a November report by Thurrock’s Clinical Commissioning Group that there are concerns over “affordability”, with two of sits potentially being reduced in size.
Before officially making the referral next week, members of the committee will approve a letter highlighting their concerns.
In it, they claim that there has been “limited clarity” on services following the closure of the hospital and that the changes are not in the interest of Thurrock residents.
It states: “The referral is being submitted on the basis of Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee not being satisfied with the adequacy of the consultation and that the proposal to relocate services currently provided by Orsett Hospital are not in the best interest of health services in Thurrock.”
After the committee announced their intentions to make the referral the STP’s independent chair, Professor Mike Bewick, wrote to committee chair Councillor Victoria Holloway to express his “disappointment with this outcome”.
He wrote that he is “unable to comprehend” the reason for the referral. He says that the STP has provided a great deal of information to the public on the hospital’s closure including a video published online which had over 5,000 views.
He adds: “For the Orsett Hospital changes, assessments found an overarching positive impact on quality, outcomes and accessibility for Thurrock residents.”
If the committee approves the referral on Thursday it will be the second council to refer the plans to the secretary of state.
Southend Council made their own referral in October due to concerns that the proposals would be harmful to residents. That referral is underway and it could take up to six months for a response to be provided by the Government.
Thurrock’s referral will be treated as in addition to Southend’s – potentially making the arguments from both councils stronger.