Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle has demanded that NHS bosses “put all options on the table” when the public is asked about plans to reorganise the way healthcare is delivered in central Lancashire.
A draft proposal - drawn up by a partnership of health and social care organisations in the area - has suggested creating a single Accident and Emergency unit and a separate facility for pre-planned treatment.
When the final suggestion is sent out for formal consultation early next year, the so-called ‘model of care’ will have been largely decided - with the location of individual services likely to be the main focus of the discussion.
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The process was in danger of becoming “a farce” if it asked “a loaded question”, Sir Lindsay said.
“If they’re saying this is the only option, why are they consulting? That’s a complete failure.
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“Consultation means we should not only be listening to what they’re trying put forward, but that the alternatives [should also be included].”
The veteran MP has been a vocal critic of the trust which runs Chorley and South Ribble Hospital in his constituency, where the Accident and Emergency department has been operating for 12 hours a day for over eighteen months, due to a shortage of doctors.
He says that reinstatement of a round-the-clock emergency service is his “number one priority”.
“Chorley is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, along with South Ribble. “We’re talking nearly 400,000 people [in this area], which tells me services should be concentrated [here],” Sir Lindsay added.
And he reiterated his support for a so-called super hospital in central Lancashire - but said that would not negate the need for local A&Es.
“The last thing you want to do is fill [a super hospital] with people walking in with broken arms. You’ve got to serve the people through existing A&Es and Chorley is ideal for doing that and so is Preston - we can’t afford to lose that capacity,” Sir Lindsay said.
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Meanwhile, Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley has echoed the call for the public to be presented with a broad range of options.
"Whenever we speak to residents, one of their major concerns is the pressure on public services such as schools, transport and health services.
“With our borough continuing to grow, we need to make sure the healthcare provision, particularly when it comes to the A&E services - which can be the difference between life and death - are properly resourced and close enough for our residents to access easily.
“It is right that the clinicians put forward their views, but it’s vital that residents get to have their say on a number of options and aren’t presented with an option that for all intents and purposes has already been determined.”
Dr. Geraldine Skailes, Medical Director at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said that although a model of care was close to being finalised, the public would get its say on the “configuration” of services.
“When we get to [the point of consultation], there will be a number of different options that we can present to the public for consideration,” Dr. Skailes said.
"Once we have finalised [the proposal], there’s a lot of work that has to be done looking at the workforce, the finances and the facilities that care will be delivered in.”
A formal public consultation on the proposed changes is expected to begin in January 2019.
Seema Kennedy, MP for South Ribble, was approached for comment.
CAMPAIGN GROUP FEARS FOR THE FUTURE
A campaign group set up after Chorley and South Ribble Hospital’s A&E temporarily shut two years ago says a formal consultation about reorganising the NHS in central Lancashire means “there’s a big change” on the way.
But Jenny Hurley, from Protect Chorley Hospital From Cuts and Privatisation, has criticised the informal public engagement events which have taken place so far.
“At one event in Chorley, we asked who was present who wasn’t from our group or wasn’t a councillor - and two people put their hands up.”
And she added that the future of the Chorley site was in jeopardy as plans continue to be formulated.
“The fear is that Chorley is going to be left with specialised services and nothing else.
“We don’t want a consolation prize - these changes have massive implications.”
She also said that a super hospital in Lancashire - should it ever be built - was not a cure-all for the needs of patients in the county.
“It might be that the services are the same size, but if you multiply the population by five, it’s going to be completely inadequate,” Jenny Hurley said.