Friday, July 29, 2005

And more Romsey Hospital

No excuses - it has dominated the week.

A quick recap for those not familiar with the situation.

The local Primary Care Trust (Eastleigh and Test Valley South working in alliance mode with the New Forest) is consulting on "Community Services for Older People". You may well think that this is a laudable aim but the sub plot is that apparently a whole host of wonderful home based services mean that there will be a reduced need for community hospital beds in the future.

So, tucked away in a 44 page document are proposals 1a-1d which involve closing combinations of hospital beds in the New Forest and Option 2 which sweepingly suggests a complete closure of community beds in five local hospitals - including Romsey.

The PCT did not help themselves at the early public meetings as the piece of paper placed on the chairs at each meeting asked people to tick one of the options! The net result was that the PCT appeared to be setting community against community and, although according to the Trust this was not the intention, this action meant that the local MPs would present a united front on this one. I can honestly say that there are many things that Julian Lewis, Desmond Swayne and I are poles apart on but this issue is beyond party politics. It also meant that I attended meetings in Fordingbridge and Lyndhurst so I was fairly familiar with the presentation by the time this morning came. It also meant that I have noticed a few subtle shifts in emphasis over the last few days although I get quite alarmed when presenters (who are paid quite large salaries from the public purse) do not adapt the prepared script to local circumstances.
Best example of this is last night in Lyndhurst when one presenter blandly mentioned that they were consulting on the closure of hospital beds - to be shouted down by the audience. She had neglected to mention (hopefully she was aware) that the Fenwick hospital in Lyndhurst had been closed (temporarily) for some time.

A couple of people from the League of Friends had kindly offered to save me a seat which was a good job because when I arrived, just after 10, the hall was full. By 10:30 I reckon there were twice as many people outside the hall as inside. I asked if more people could be let into the side hall and provided with a sound relay and was initially told this was not possible but when the PCT checked they were allowed to have some extra people standing. Not ideal but better than nothing.

One funny moment when a gentleman from outside shouted very loudly through the window (I swear he must have been a sergeant major) "Why not come outside as there are more of us out here." People were angry and many could not come back for the 2 o'clock session so the PCT have been urged to hold another meeting - preferably in the evening.

Rather than give a blow by blow account of the meeting I shall list, on a separated posting, the reasons why the proposals are flawed but ultimately I was impressed by how well behaved the meeting was when ultimately it was also clear that passions were running high - although there was one unfortunate moment when people started shouting the Chief Exec down when he was only trying to answer questions that had already been asked.

Actually, it's pretty clear that there is a rapid backtracking on the proposal to close all community beds. I like to think that the hospital will be safe but it is still important that people write in with their views on the consultation.