Mixed messages on the future of minor injury units at Ely, Doddington and Wisbech

Tracy Dowling

Tracy Dowling - Credit: Archant

A five year promise of health care improvements in Cambridgeshire has given a confused message on the future of minor injury units at hospitals in Ely, Wisbech and Doddington.

Cllr Anna Bailey

Cllr Anna Bailey - Credit: Archant

The pledge to fix a growing need for community health care, mental health, social care and GP services has been made against a backdrop of an over stretched local NHS budget.

But the promises, made in a glowing document which aims to keep the population fit for the future, waits until the final page to pack a punch that leaves the future of minor injury units unclear.

An insider told the Cambs Times that people need to “stop attaching themselves to particular buildings” and “change their mind sets on healthcare” because MIUs are going to close.

The health care pledge comes in a document called the Sustainability and Transportation Plan (STP), which waits until page 48, the last page before the appendix, to admit there are fears of “political risk to delivery” of its plans because “patients and the public do not support our proposed solutions.”

It adds there is a risk: “Caused by political opposition to the solutions set out relating to reconfiguration of services particularly from local councillors in East Cambridgeshire who may be opposed to changes to MIUs and community beds given that many of these are located there.”

NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay said he has been assured at meetings with the CCG, ministers, Professor Bruce Keogh and others that the rural hub model is being worked up into a proper proposal for all three sites.

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The hubs will see services added to take up spare capacity at the MIUs to make them run more efficiently and he said: “I am confident we are moving forward in the right way.”

He added that they (CCG) were not in a position to say the MIUs were safe because the CCG is still working up its proposals and it would be unfair on the CCG to spark alarm at this point.

Councillor Virginia Bucknor said she wanted clarification about the MIUs,

“Residents appear to be of the understanding that all three MIU units are “saved from closure,” she said.

However in a CCG presentation at Fenland District Council last month, she said Tracy Dowling advised of hubs which may be contained in doctors surgeries. but decisions would not be made until the New Year.

Cllr Bucknor urged for clarity on the current status as urgently as possible to ensure residents are clear.

County councillor Anna Bailey said: “I read the report very positively, I’ve seen plans to develop Princess of Wales Hospital into a modern centre.”

But she added she was confused about why the risk factor had been written into the document because: “If the future is as it’s laid out, there will be no opposition from East Cambs district councillors.”

She added she was led to believe the statement was included by mistake however the CCG assured this paper that it was meant to be there.

Cllr Bailey said: “I can’t speak for Doddington or Wisbech but we’ve had 10,000 successfully treated patients in Ely over a 52 week period - you can’t now shift those to already over stretched A&Es.

“I feel confident that the public campaign has made the CCG take notice.”

A spokesman denied the MIUs are at risk and says no decision has yet been made.

Within the five year plan are:

• Centres of clinical excellence for orthopaedics and stroke.

• A patient choice hub.

• Larger GP practices.

• A review of the location of ENT, planned and emergency services.

• Boosting neighbourhood teams.

• Development of three rural urgent primary care hubs.

The STP has been developed to provide solutions to challenges which show:

• Local needs are growing while demands on the services are increasing.

• The current system does not meet the standard of care the CCG aspires to.

• Recruiting and retaining staff is difficult.

• The system’s financial challenge is significant and growing.

David Astley OBE, independent chair for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough STP, said it: “Outlines how we are working together, as one system, to deliver the changes needed to meet the needs of patients and improve the care we provide.

“As our delivery plans take shape we will continue to engage with staff, service users and carers to share our proposed solutions, the possible impacts on services, and how they can give their views.

“For any major changes we will ensure that the views of patients and local people shape key decisions, including formal consultation.”

Dr Alex Gimson, consultant physician and heptologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and clinical lead for the STP, said: “The plan enables our organisations to address the significant changes needed to manage the demand on our services, and to bring them up to the highest standards. “Where services are provided from more than one site, we will use our specialised skills and expertise collectively to raise quality everywhere.”

Tracy Dowling, accountable officer for the STP and chief officer, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG, said: “We are already working together and have signed a Memorandum of Understanding as a demonstration of our commitment to share budgets, deliver our agreed clinical services and ensure that our health and care services are clinically and financially sustainable, making the best use of money allocated to us.

“Due to the high levels of acute hospital activity, and resulting deteriorating financial position in our system, we are looking at ways to accelerate the pace of change and focus early investment on the areas that will have greatest impact on reducing hospital activity levels.

“Our priorities are to increase the amount of care delivered closer to home and to keep people well in their communities.”

Dr Gary Howsam, clinical chair, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG, and GP Partner at New Queen Street Surgery, Whittlesey and Stanground Surgery, said: “The plan will support GPs across the county to manage the demand on their services, share best practice, work together and to provide enhanced primary and community care that our local people need, and to encourage and support people to maintain their own health and wellbeing.”

Watchdog body Healthwatch welcomed the STP and said it was timely as people have been worried about what the plans might mean for changes to local services.

Chief executive, Sandie Smith said “Our Healthwatch has worked hard to make sure that the CCG knew which local organisations and community groups to approach, to help develop different areas of the plan.”

Read the STP report here