Could Falmouth keep its Minor Injury Unit?

Could Falmouth keep its Minor Injury Unit?

New report sheds insights into how health and council bosses are planning the “Kennally Care” future of Cornwall’s community hospitals

18th January 2018

By Graham Smith

Further details have emerged of what Cornwall’s local hospitals could look like once the National Health Service converts to a council-led Accountable Care System.

The developing proposals imply some encouraging news for Falmouth, St Austell and possibly Bodmin – but disappointment for Bude, Launceston, Helston, Saltash, Fowey, St Ives and Newquay. Details are contained in a new update on proposals for the ACS, which is due to launch in shadow form on 1st April.

The Minor Injury Units are still earmarked for closure, with some upgraded to Urgent Treatment Centres. The UTCs are currently scheduled to be at Penzance, Camborne, Truro and Liskeard, although NHS bosses insist that no final decisions have yet been taken.

However, the latest report suggests that Falmouth might possibly be retained as a MIU, despite previous official documents talking of a “commitment” to replace all 14 MIUs with a smaller number of UTCs. The singling out of Falmouth as a possible MIU coincides with a Cornwall Council by-election in the town, with polling on 1st February.

The report, to be considered by Cornwall’s Health & Wellbeing Board next week, is the first of its kind to draw an explicit connection between the proposed Accountable Care System and specific hospital sites. Cornwall councillors will be able to debate it next Thursday. So far, the Inquiry Panel set up to study the ACS has met three times and not asked any questions about its impact on community facilities.

NHS England has said it wants 150 UTCs nationally by December. They “will be GP-led, open 12 hours a day, every day, and be equipped to diagnose and deal with many of the most common ailments people attend A&E for.”

While the closure of any Minor Injury Unit does not necessarily mean the closure of a hospital, the long-term viability of Cornwall’s community sites depends on the business case they can make without MIUs. Those which are not viable will be closed and sold.

NHS Kernow has insisted that no community facilities will be withdrawn without public consultation – but this claim has been seriously weakened by the long-term “temporary” closures of hospitals and treatment centres at St Ives, Bodmin, Fowey and Saltash without any consultation.

Falmouth’s MIU – could it be saved because of the town’s “transient population”?

The Health & Wellbeing Board report confirms:

  • Four super hubs along the spine of the county
  • Locations of UTCs “on arterial routes is probably a good approach”
  • Falmouth “needs a Minor Injury Unit because of its transient population”
  • “The CT scanner in the West is used so there should be one in the East, perhaps Bodmin or St Austell”
  • The need to “consider car parking capacity”
  • “There should be short term observation beds available in the Camborne/Redruth area”
  • “Camborne and Redruth Community Hospital and the minor injury unit need to be made more like an urgent care centre to maximise use”
  • “St Austell needs a centre to stop people going to A&E”

The new report fails to mention any future for hospital sites at Bude, Launceston, Helston, Saltash, Fowey, St Ives or Newquay. The St Ives Stennack GP surgery is currently rated as a Minor Injuries Unit and is separate from the already-closed (“temporarily”) Edward Hain hospital. The report does however speak of the need to utilise “community facilities” in the most cost-effective way possible.

The final recommendations as to which sites have a long-term future will not be published until later this year, with final decisions taken around the middle of next year – after the Accountable Care System has moved out of “shadow” form and established as a statutory body – dubbed “Kennally Care” after council chief Kate Kennally, who would be the Single Integrated Commissioner for healthcare in Cornwall.

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