City Road Hospital in Birmingham and Sandwell Hospital have already joined together within the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospital Trust, Now there are radical plans to rationalise services in the mid term with plans to build a new hospital on a new site in Sandwell between the two in the longer term. The Trust has embarked on a series of consultation meetings, although the impression left is that decisions have already been made.
The Birmingham Evening Mail set up a meeting at the Afro-Caribbean Millenium Centre last night (16/1/2007) with the difference that there were two panels with opposing views. About 200 people attended and most were unconvinced by the Chief Executive’s explanation. It appears that this is a top down exercise.
Some of those who worked at the hospitals, particularly the nearby City Hospital in Dudley Road, were critical of services which had already been cut. Facilities for children and young people have disappeared. Recent job losses have left people demoralised. Having waited in A and E for four hours for a young person to be admitted I had to wonder what was going on, particularly when the sign board was saying that waiting was due to a shortage of staff. The presentation announced the building of new up-to-date facilities (no dissent on that) but there appeared to be uncertainty of what could be provided given the budget available.
Khalid Mahmood, MP for Perry Barr, stated that he was going to post proposals to all constituents. It had been pointed out that many people knew nothing of them. There was a request that he should send out the petition being organised. Raghib Ahsan felt it was rather late to be sending out the proposals at this stage of the consultation. Khalid Mahmood was asked if he supported or opposed the proposals. He replied that he would follow what his constituents asked him.
The debate comes in a climate of hospital closures across the country, a matter which is highly emotive. In Kidderminster it led to the election of an independent candidate to Parliament.
The present proposals are for hospital closure, two in this case, with the promise of a new one of uncertain size. The argument goes that there will be more care closer to home. Care in community to date has not built confidence that provision will be anywhere near adequate. It has recently been admitted that elderly people will not be able to rely on care from public sources in the future.
We are talking about health care in an area of high deprivation with high incidence of diabetes, heart disease and mental health problems. In 2004 I organised a conference which responded to the declaration by the health authorities to work closely with the community to tackle longstanding health problems. Although high ranking officers came a gave lip service to us in practice they failed to give support. An officer who spoke in support at the conference (it is recorded) subsequently prevented funding being allocated.
Th matter of funding by a Private Finance Initiative wasn’t raised until near the end of the meeting. It has been a matter of deep concern how much is going into the hands of private firms compared with what is allocated for health.