5th June 2018
By Graham Smith
NHS chiefs have again denied they have any “formal” plans to close Cornwall’s Minor Injury Units (MIUs), after receiving a 2,700-name petition at a meeting of their governing body today (Tuesday.)
The petition, organised by the St Austell and Newquay Labour Party, expressed alarm at proposals first outlined in the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plan to close nearly a dozen MIUs, and replace them with only four Urgent Treatment Centres.
Most of the MIUs are housed in community hospitals and there are fears that without the specialist injury treatment facilities, the hospitals themselves could be at risk of closure.
Health bosses are currently engaged in a “Strategic Estates Review” which involves a “Property Asset Scorecard.” They say this is merely to inform choices later on, but health campaigners fear that because the questions-and-answers are framed in meetings which are not open to the public, closure decisions are being taken by stealth.
The protestations of hurt innocence by some members of NHS Kernow’s governing body today, insisting they have never even discussed closure of any MIUs, do not sit well with the facts on the ground in places like Saltash and Fowey. The MIUs in those towns closed two years ago with no public consultation.
Labour also points to health facilities in Bodmin, and St Ives, which have also been closed with no public consultation.
In Fowey and St Ives, there are advanced plans to cease completely the use of the buildings as hospitals and use them instead for residential accommodation. Cornwall councillors, who have the statutory authority to invoke formal consultations, have so far sat on their hands. The council’s health scrutiny committee meets tomorrow (Wednesday.)
The Labour Party’s concern is shared by some Liberal Democrats. Andrew George, Parliamentary candidate for St Ives, said he was very worried about last week’s news that Helston hospital is to see its number of beds halved, from 24 to 12.
“This is part of a very worrying trend,” he said. “If beds are closed this is going in the opposite direction from where the NHS needs to be.
“Mullion Surgery had already given notice that it would withdraw from its contract to cover the other 12 beds nearly 3 months ago. This news is disheartening and worrying for the local community.
“After the ‘temporary’ closure of Poltair hospital which is now sold off, the ‘temporary’ closure of Edward Hain in St Ives 2 years ago – and that doesn’t look like ever re-opening – the signs are not good, especially as the NHS is in serious debt and services seriously over-stretched.”
Dr Iain Chorlton, chair of NHS Kernow, told Cornwall Reports that previous NHS statements about the Minor Injury Units had been “misinterpreted” – and that the “temporary” closure of facilities had been due to decisions taken by NHS providers, not commissioners.
“When the time comes we are absolutely committed to full public consultation,” he said. “We have no formal plans to make any major changes to our level of service.”