Rather than slashing services at the Princess of Hospital, we should be looking at boosting them as our city continues to grow, Ely Mayor Ian Lindsay told a packed public meeting yesterday.
A former RAF physician, Mr Lindsay said expanding services at the hospital would make more sense than scrapping them, saying that none of the six options presented by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group was his preferred option.
“That’s to try to grow the Princess of Wales Hospital, possibly to move our general practitioners up there so that they can be offered more opportunity in terms of their clinical practice and have a more rewarding career.”
This would help to boost outpatient arrangements, he said, and avoid confusion over follow-up appointments “where they don’t know whether they have to go to Addenbrookes, Hinchingbrooke or be seen” at the Princess of Wales Hospital.
“I think I speak for the City Council here and what matters to us is that the citizens of Ely should be utterly confident in the medical services that are going to be provided for them in the future.”
He said Ely residents had made their message to the CCG “loud and clear” – they wanted healthcare provisions to remain local.
Mr Lindsay spoke following a sometimes heated public meeting set up by the CCG, the body responsible for making financial decisions about the NHS in our area. It was called after a whistleblower leaked a secret document to Northeast Cambridgeshire MP Steve Barclay, recommending the closure of Minor Injury Units (MIUs) at Ely, Doddington and Wisbech.
The Maltings meeting – the first of three public meetings across East Cambridgeshire and Fenland about the future of MIUs and other outpatient services – was so packed that residents had to borrow seats from nearby Ta Bouche.
During a presentation, CCG chief officer Tracy Dowling said the CCG was in a “very difficult” financial place and had to ensure “best value from every pound spent”. The CCG had to reduce this year’s expenditure by over £43 million. The contract value for the MIUs was “relatively small” – about £1.3 million per year.
Ms Dowling said patients were often unclear about when to use MIUs, staff skills were being underused and there were low attendances at some periods and sites. However, local people had told the CCG that it was “crucial” to maintain a local service and that they liked the short waiting times and walk-in service at the MIUs. They praised staff for being “friendly and helpful” but were not always sure where to go for different predicaments. Many patients had told the CCG that they would have attended their GP or Accident and Emergency had their MIU not been available.
She said that three-quarters of cases presented at the three threatened MIU sites were trauma related, with minor illness making up the remaining quarter. About one-fifth of all cases required an x-ray.
The MIUs were able to treat wounds, bites, minor burns and scalds, muscle and joint injuries, eye problems, ear ache for patients aged two and over, cystitis in women, minor head injuries and provide emergency contraception.
The CCG is considering six options regarding the future of the three MIUs and outpatient services:
1. Continue with existing services as before.
2. Close all MIUs and hand over their roles to primary care and local Accident and Emergency departments.
3. Reconfigure services in the Fens and East Cambridgeshire to create “an integrated local urgent care service”.
4. Close all but one of the MIUs in the Fens and East Cambridgeshires but develop this into an Urgent Care Centre, with additional responsibilities.
5. Close one of the MIUs and develop the remaining two into Urgent Care Centres.
6. Develop all MIUs into Urgent Care Centres.
Ms Dowling said the CCG would carry out more work to consider the options between now and October. If the options were supported there would be a public consultation from around November to February next year. The CCG would make a decision after reviewing the options and feedback.
The CCG would “ensure that a future service will provide a local service for minor injuries/illness but this may be in a different way.”
No decisions had yet been taken, she said.
The MIU at Ely’s Princess of Wales Hospital treats an average of 13,638 cases per year. It’s open seven days a week, with staff seeing an average of 44.3 cases daily. In Doddington the MIU sees 9,119 cases a year. It’s also open seven days a week, with an average caseload of 29.6 cases daily. The Wisbech MIU is open five days a week, dealing with 8,920 cases a year – an average of 40.5 cases daily.
Speaking after the meeting, Ely campaigner Emma Watson, whose petition to save our MIUs has got over 4260 signatures, said: “I acknowledge that there is going to need to be some streamlining of service provision but my greatest concern is that we should not lose local access to such care, and for A&E departments at Addenbrooke’s and the Queen Elizabeth – as well as the ambulance service – to face buckling pressure on already oversubscribed provision.”
Other chances to have your say:
• Tuesday 23 August, 7.00-9.00pm at Doddington Recreation Hall, Doddington Community Hospital, Benwick Road, Doddington, Cambridgeshire, PE15 0UG
• Thursday 25 August, 6.30-8.30pm at the Rosmini Centre, 69A Queens Road, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, PE13 2PH