South Ribble councillors speak out against any attempt to close the borough's A&E
South Ribble Borough Council has become the third local authority to express concern over the potential closure of the accident and emergency department at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital.
The district’s councillors unanimously supported a motion stating that they opposed the shutting or downgrading of the facility “without clear, truly independent clinical justification and a thorough public consultation”.
Chorley Council last year passed an even stronger resolution calling for the reinstatement of a round-the-clock service.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed last month that three options are likely to be put to a public consultation on the future of the department later this year – two of which would see it replaced with different versions of a 24-hour urgent care centre. The status quo – a part-time A&E service on the site – is also set to appear on the list, but has been deemed not to be “clinically viable” by medics from within and beyond Central Lancashire.
At a meeting of South Ribble’s full council, Cllr Chris Lomax listed a series of locations in the borough from where it would take up to ten minutes longer to get to the Royal Preston than to Chorley Hospital.
“Every minute counts and that’s why we’re fighting for [the A&E], he said, referencing a public information film about the importance of fast action in the event of a stroke.
Labour councillor Will Adams said he was speaking on the subject not as a councillor or a political campaigner – but “a nurse who is proud to serve on our NHS”.
He added: “I want to dwell on reality of A&E – the effect of sitting in a waiting room for over six hours waiting to be seen or being treated on a trolley in a corridor, where staff have to treat and support the dementia patient who is so distressed – or possibly treating a mental health patient in that same corridor.
“I’ve seen first-hand the difference a few seconds can make - and that few seconds can be the difference between life and death, or even life-changing injuries or not. Our residents deserve to be seen in the quickest possible time,” Cllr Adams said.
Liberal Democrat group leader David Howarth – also a member of the Lancashire County Council health scrutiny committee which is being consulted over the consultation process – said he was concerned by “wooly statements” in the clinical assessments which referred to a “slight increase” in attendance at neighbouring A&Es when Chorley’s was temporarily closed completely in 2016.
“How did they arrive at that [conclusion] – and compared to what?” Cllr Howarth asked.
Meanwhile, Conservative member Michael Green welcomed the political consensus on the matter, describing it as a “deeply serious issue for the residents of South Ribble”.
Responding to the debate, a spokesperson for Our Health Our Care, the partnership of NHS and local authority organisations overseeing the proposals, said that stroke and major trauma patients already bypass Chorley Hospital to be taken for specialist treatment at the Royal Preston.
Speaking on behalf of OHOC, Denis Gizzi – chief officer at the Chorley and South Ribble and Greater Preston Clinical Commissioning Groups – said:
“We completely understand the democratic right of elected representatives to voice their concerns on behalf of residents and therefore note the motion recently passed by South Ribble Council. We recognise the place Chorley and South Ribble District General Hospital holds in the heart of our community, and the emotional impact this has on discussions about the future of services. This is exactly why we are working together with health and care partners, including the South Ribble Council, to safeguard a long-term future for the hospital as a place that local people can receive excellent care.
“Choosing to make no changes to the way our services are configured across the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals would make it more difficult for us to make improvements and deliver essential clinical standards linked to quality. Our own local clinicians, including those who work at the hospitals and care for local people on a daily basis, have long believed that things need to change if the care they are able to provide is to be improved.
“It is absolutely right that any changes to services should be clinically-led and robustly scrutinised by independent experts. As a programme, we have already received and published the findings of independent clinical bodies who have reviewed our options for change. The reports, which we published last month, all reached an agreed consensus that the clinical evidence requires us to rethink the way our local emergency and wider acute hospital services are currently configured across central Lancashire. These expert reviews all fully considered the growing size of the local population in their findings and all reach a clear consensus that a 24/7 full (or Type 1) A&E at Chorley and South Ribble District General Hospital is not a realistic way forward.
“At this stage, no decisions have been made about the future of services in central Lancashire and certainly not about the future of Chorley and South Ribble hospital in particular. Any significant changes to our local hospital services would be subject to an open, honest, and transparent staff and public consultation which we expect to take place this summer. No final decisions will take place until this consultation has concluded, “ Mr. Gizzi added.