Closing community hospitals – local GP speaks truth to power

“Dr Jon Orrell, A LOCAL GP has warned residents to not be “fooled by the warm words” in the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) current consultation.

Dr Jon Orrell attended a meeting in Bridport last week along with Wendy Savage – a gynaecologist and campaigner of women’s rights in childbirth and fertility – and Claudia Sorin of Save SCBU, Maternity and Kingfisher at Dorset County Hospital.

Dr Orrell discussed the CCG, of which he was previously a member, and said the group don’t take their views from the public.

He said: “The CCG is the local organisation which has been tasked in making all these cuts palatable and trying to sell them. You will be told it is clinically driven, you will be told that it is an improvement and there is no alternative.

“The CCG is headed by local doctors, however it is compulsory, I can’t carry on being a GP practising in Dorset unless I am a member of the CCG.

“It is very much hierarchical… we don’t take our views from the public, it is top down and a culture of agreement – I have experienced this first hand.”

He also warned residents to look deeper in the Clinical Services Review document and to be careful when filling it out.

He added: “Throughout the document you will see ‘care in the community’ popping up and ‘care closer to home’ as if that is necessarily a good thing. It is all playing with words in my opinion.

“If you rename ‘care in the community’ to ‘neglect and anonymity’ you have got it closer to the truth.

“Looking after people properly costs a lot of money and you need more doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants to do it.

“Care in the community would be great if you did it to the same high standards and done properly as in hospitals, but they don’t and it is just a couple of hours a day, half-an-hour, and is not necessarily a nurse, it could be a healthcare assistant who is not trained – it is not the same.

“If you look at the document it all looks very bright and smiley – everyone is happy by this change. However, you get down to the detail and small print and you find the truth emerging – this isn’t improvement, this isn’t making things better, this is Dorset’s share of £22billion worth of national savings.

“Be careful with the consultation, it looks like they are putting [forward] something good, if you tick ‘yes’ to any of the boxes you are voting to close local services without realising it, you will close community hospitals and GP surgeries.

“The final word of warning – don’t be fooled by the warm words, the motherhood and apple pie in the document; look a bit deeper.

“Absolutely fill it in and get your family and friends to fill it in as our NHS depends on this.”

Wendy Savage spoke to the audience about threats to the NHS nationally, including Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) which outline how NHS trusts will make savings, and urged residents to talk to their local MPs and councillors about protecting the future of health care.

She said: “The latest threat are these STPs, or what we call slash, trash and privatise. Slash the funding, trash the local services and privatise.

“We have got to make sure parliamentary candidates as well as sitting MPs know that not supporting the NHS is the kiss of death.”

Claudia Sorin highlighted some of the concerns that members of the Save SCBU, Maternity and Kingfisher ward at Dorset County Hospital have and how safety could be compromised if services were moved to the east of the county.

She said: “Various families with seriously ill children or children with disabilities will have their provision at home in the community.

“When I spoke to one of the CCG members who is in charge of children services and maternity, she said ‘yes, that is the case’ – they will be given a package of money and they will be given that funding and they will organise it themselves in their own homes.

“That is the integrated community model; closing down beds in hospitals, closing down the children’s ward and maternity unit and that will be a midwife led unit only.

“Some of the mums on the campaign have open access to the children’s ward.

“That takes pressure off the emergency services, takes the pressure off the GPs because they can go straight to the Kingfisher Ward where the staff there know their child and can quickly give them the vital treatment that they need. This is something that is going to be lost if Kingfisher closes.

“The parents of these children have spoken to consultants there, the nursing staff, and all of them, on the whole, think that it would not be safe for a lot of the treatments that their children are coming in to the hospital for to have at home.

“The idea that maternity services and the children’s ward should be over in the east of the county, consultants at DCH are saying that would be complete madness.

“So this is the message we are getting from DCH – it would compromise safety to have those services over on the east of the county.”

A spokesperson for Dorset CCG said: “The proposals that have been developed by local clinicians and are subject to public consultation have been well documented over the last few months.

“We want to be absolutely clear that no decisions have been made, nor will they be until after the public consultation has ended and the feedback analysed.

“We invite anyone who attended either the drop-in event in January or the recent meeting in Bridport to get in touch if they would like more information or clarification before they complete their questionnaire.

“It is important that you don’t miss out on your opportunity to have a say and you complete the questionnaire by February 28th.

“Whether you agree with the proposals or not or you maybe have an idea of how things could be done differently – if you don’t tell us what you think, we won’t have heard your point of view.”