Squeezed NHS must close dozens of ser­vices

70 fa­cil­i­ties across UK to be shut or down­graded Six A&Es un­der threat from re­or­gan­i­sa­tion plans

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - De­nis Camp­bell Health pol­icy edi­tor

Dozens of A&E units, GP surg­eries and walk-in cen­tres have been ear­marked for clo­sure be­cause of the NHS’s money prob­lems, un­der­staffing and mod­erni­sa­tion plans, a re­port re­leased today re­veals.

NHS bod­ies have de­cided in the last four months alone to shut or down­grade at least 70 ser­vices across Eng­land, the cam­paign group 38 De­grees has found. They in­clude ma­ter­nity units and sev­eral com­mu­nity hos­pi­tals, which are meant to take the pres­sure off acute hos­pi­tals, which of­ten strug­gle un­der the weight of pa­tients’ de­mand for care.

The ur­gent care cen­tre in the cen­tre of Wal­sall is likely to close, even though it opened only last year at a cost of £1m, un­der money-sav­ing plans be­ing considered by the town’s NHS clin­i­cal com­mis­sion­ing group. The CCG wants to shut the cen­tre to save £951,000 in run­ning costs be­cause, it says, not enough pa­tients go there to jus­tify it stay­ing open.

The de­ci­sion has yet to be con­firmed af­ter a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion found that 88% of re­spon­dents op­posed clo­sure and just 8% backed it. The po­ten­tial loss of a fa­cil­ity that treats 120 peo­ple a day has sparked lo­cal protests.

Crit­ics warn that it will leave Wal­sall’s other ur­gent care cen­tre, at Manor hos­pi­tal, un­able to cope with ex­tra de­mand. The CCG says that too few pa­tients use it and that many who do can go else­where for help, in­clud­ing to a lo­cal phar­macy or call­ing NHS111.

“Cuts and clo­sures are be­ing made and threat­ened to front­line NHS ser­vices across the coun­try”, said Holly Maltby, a cam­paigner with 38 De­grees.

“It is clear from these find­ings that the im­pact of NHS un­der­fund­ing is be­ing felt across Eng­land and ac­cess to ser­vices is un­der threat of be­ing com­pro­mised.”

Six walk-in cen­tres, two sex­ual health clin­ics and one chil­dren’s ser­vice are also on the list com­piled by 38 De­grees. The walk-in cen­tre clo­sures in­clude the fa­cil­ity in Lin­coln, which is the only ser­vice of its type in Lin­colnshire. Lin­coln’s Labour MP, Karen Lee, who is a for­mer NHS nurse, has voiced se­ri­ous dis­quiet about the plan, as have lo­cal coun­cil lead­ers.

Pa­tients may have to travel fur­ther to see a GP or other doc­tor, ma­ter­nity units are be­ing closed to new ar­rivals at short no­tice and there is less sup­port at home for peo­ple with men­tal ill­ness, she added.

The six A&Es that are un­der threat as a re­sult of plans to re­or­gan­ise ur­gent and emer­gency care in­clude those at Gran­tham hos­pi­tal in Lin­colnshire, Poole hos­pi­tal in Dorset, and Hud­der­s­field royal in­fir­mary and Dews­bury and district hos­pi­tal, both in York­shire.

The A&E at We­ston hos­pi­tal, in We­ston­super-Mare, Som­er­set, ceased func­tion­ing be­tween 10pm and 8am from July be­cause it could not find enough staff to pro­vide care that was safe for pa­tients. And the emer­gency depart­ment at King Ge­orge hos­pi­tal in Il­ford, Es­sex, is due to be down­graded to an ur­gent care cen­tre in 2019, though coun­cil lead­ers and lo­cal MPs are cam­paign­ing against it.

Seven men­tal health ser­vices or teams are at risk of clo­sure, de­spite men­tal ill­ness be­ing a gov­ern­ment pri­or­ity. They in­clude Ne­wholme hos­pi­tal in Bakewell, Der­byshire, which will go as part of the lo­cal NHS’s plans to pro­vide more care closer to pa­tients’ homes. A to­tal of 104 com­mu­nity hos­pi­tal beds will also go.

The clo­sure of nine dif­fer­ent GP prac­tices will force the 45,000 pa­tients af­fected to find new GPs, 38 De­grees says.

De­tails of the clo­sures come a week be­fore the bud­get. The chan­cel­lor, Philip Ham­mond, is un­der pres­sure to give the NHS more cash than orig­i­nally planned. NHS Eng­land’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Si­mon Stevens, wants an ex­tra £4bn, much more than the £700m that min­is­ters plan.

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