3rd October 2018
By Graham Smith
The location of Cornwall’s new Urgent Treatment Centres – designed to offer high-tech medical facilities and relieve pressure on the Royal Cornwall Hospital’s over-stretched Accident & Emergency service – have been identified as Penzance, Truro and Bodmin.
The news will come as a shock to people in East Cornwall, who had reason to believe that Liskeard was the health chiefs’ preferred location. Early plans to provide a new UTC at Camborne also appear to have been abandoned.
The new facilities at Penzance and Truro are likely to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is not clear if the Bodmin Urgent Treatment Centre will also be open round the clock. The Bodmin UTC will be on the site of the former Minor Injuries Unit, closed more than a year ago.
The NHS requires UTCs to be led by local GPs and to be open for at least 12 hours a day.
Cornwall has been extremely slow to respond to the government’s call, in July last year, for a new national network of UTCs. They are supposed to be up and running by December. In Cornwall, this now seems unlikely.
But the location of the new centres also seems likely to trigger a new wave of controversy, as large parts of North and East Cornwall will feel they have been neglected.
On Monday (8th October) the Shaping Our Future Transformation Board is due to consider a report, published this morning (Wednesday) on the SOF website, which confirms that health chiefs plan to close hospitals at Saltash, Fowey and St Ives. All three have been closed on a “temporary” basis for around two years. Health chiefs will now try to sell those sites, while going through the motions of a “public consultation” exercise.
Campaigns to save local Minor Injury Units appear to have been largely successful, at least for now. While those MIUs at Saltash and Fowey would be lost, alternative provision will come from GPs providing “enhanced” services. Bude, Launceston and Liskeard would each keep a Minor Injury Unit.
A report to Monday’s meeting says: “Plans to enhance other minor injury sites and services will continue to be developed as now with local partners and stakeholders within the context of broader and ongoing discussions about future models of community based care.
“For example co-location of primary care services could lead to an enhanced service offer. Other sites may benefit from additional point of care testing equipment. For example this is being installed at Camborne Redruth Primary Care Centre as an enabling step towards the service providing a frailty assessment service.
“Constructive discussions have begun at Stratton and Liskeard sites with local GPs and other partners about opportunities to collaborate to improve the local service offer.”
While some health campaigners will be relieved that the re-shaping of Cornwall’s health map is not the total destruction that some had feared, others point to the continued need to slash £270 million from spending.
Andrew George, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for St Ives, said: “The decision to retain West Cornwall Hospital’s Urgent Care Centre as one of three Urgent Care facilities at Penzance, Truro and Bodmin is sensible and one for which campaigners like those of West Cornwall HealthWatch deserve enormous credit.
Minor Injury Units – most live to fight another day
“We have all fought very hard to protect services at the Hospital and the implications of earlier drafts which implied the downgrading of the Hospital had caused much alarm.
“Equally, protecting other Minor Injuries services run through GP clinics is welcome, though the report doesn’t tell us what hours these services will operate. Nor does it confirm that the new UCC at Bodmin will operate 24/7 as at the other two.
“The emphasis on mental health is especially welcome. Though seeing some real action and improvement in the service would be more reassuring than mutual congratulation for ticking target boxes.
“However, the rest of the report is necessarily a continuation of the same obfuscation and timidity with sumptuous helpings of meaningless management babble. The inevitable closures of Edward Hain, Fowey and Saltash Hospitals will be strung out until spring 2020 more than 4 years after they closed ‘temporarily’!
“Although the logic of the plans being developed by Cornwall’s Health Chiefs means that we need MORE primary and community services to both improve preventation of illness and to take pressure off the acute sector these closures take our services in the opposite direction – unless of course there’re plans to re-provide and enhance these services in another format.
“Underlying all of this is the shadow of the Government’s demand that Cornwall must find at least £270 million of savings/cuts by 2020. The report pays lip service to this but there are no figures and no indication how close it is to achieving the “system financial recovery plan to contain cost and demand in the NHS”.
“Although the Government has made announcements about putting more money in the NHS there has in fact been no evidence how much this is and whether any of this will help Cornwall actually avoid any of these cuts. That’s why a cross-Party campaign group of clinicians and campaigners will continue with our call for “20% more by 2020 to save the NHS”. We need just that to preserve what we’ve got let alone improve the service.”