HASLEMERE residents could face a journey of at least an hour to reach the nearest accident and emergency services, according to the The League of Friends of Haslemere Hospital. The League of Friends claim a recent report by Surrey Primary Care Trust (PCT) confirms long standing fears the town could be left stranded without acute hospital or accident and emergency facilities within a reasonable distance. The League of Friends believes the report for the first time publicly reveals the extent of possible cutbacks to health services in Surrey as a result of the 'Fit for the Future Programme'. The report proposes two options to be taken forward for further consideration and public consultation: • The retention of full accident and emergency facilities at Frimley Park Hospital, and Ashford and St Peter's Hospital, with the accident and emergency services at the Royal Surrey County Hospital facing severe cutbacks. • Or the retention of full accident and emergency facilities at Frimley Park Hospital and the Royal Surrey County Hospital, with the accident and emergency services at Ashford and St Peter's Hospital being downgraded League of Friends spokesman Robert Knowles said: "The proposals to close accident and emergency services at Guildford will leave residents in the Haslemere area with a journey to Chertsey on the outskirts of London, or Frimley on the Berkshire border, often a journey of an hour, or three hours by public transport. "This proposal must be fought, it is not a balanced suggestion and once again provides services within a few miles for everyone in North West Surrey and removes all services for South West Surrey and bordering villages. "This would be a total inequality of health provision." Save The Royal Surrey campaigners also reacted angrily to the report, which they claimed set out plans to try to solve the PCT's financial difficulties by cutting back accident and emergency care in Surrey. They dispute the PCT's claim that the options in the report were decided on after lengthy discussions with clinicians from the three hospitals involved. Campaigners argue the options were put to clinicians at the start of discussions, and there was no opportunity for any alternative suggestions to be considered. Professor Chris Marks, chair of the Save The Royal Surrey Campaign, said: "This is a cynical ploy by the PCT to claim that clinicians were fully involved in the development of options for consultation. "Discussions conducted by the PCT were little more than a talking shop seeking a rubber stamp for already decided options for change. "We refute claims from the PCT that this report reflects the opinions of clinicians. "Clinicians were presented with and asked to support a list of options focused on closing one major accident and emergency department in the county. "This does not mean that medical staff have been truly involved in discussions, and highlights how many of the 'preferred options' presented by the PCT are in fact a done deal decided behind closed doors by healthcare bosses. "The decision to retain all of the facilities at Frimley Park Hospital was clearly taken because it is also used by the residents of Hampshire. Why should the people of Surrey be forced to choose between the Royal Surrey and Ashford and St Peter's because of this?" "This report should be of deep concern to all those campaigning to safeguard the future of the Royal Surrey County Hospital. "The PCT is deliberately pitting the Royal Surrey against Ashford and St Peter's with no regard for the needs of the people of Surrey." The report signals that the Royal Surrey will retain its specialist cancer services, while also stating that the location of A&E is not seen as a 'critical determinant' of the location of the cancer centre – an opinion not shared by many doctors and nurses actually delivering healthcare to patients. Campaigners argue NHS bureaucrats cannot "buy off" the supporters of the Royal Surrey by offering the promise of retaining some specialist services in return for accepting the downgrading of accident and emergency services. They claim the report also reveals there could be further delays to the public consultation on the PCT's plans while the options are reviewed. In response Surrey PCT issued the following statement: "Surrey PCT has been publicly discussing a wide range of potential options for how healthcare could be delivered across Surrey for many months. "This work is looking at how we can respond to changes in the way healthcare is delivered to make sure that the Surrey population gets the best possible care in the most appropriate place. "Of course clinicians are helping to shape our plans and we welcome their input. "It is vital that we involve clinicians because they are at the forefront of delivering local healthcare. "They know what is working well and what can be improved and we need to use this expert knowledge to make sure we get the best healthcare for people in Surrey. "In a report published just last week, clinicians from west Surrey summarise their discussions at a recent clinical workshop about how services could be delivered in future. "The report brings together their clinical advice on potential networking of services across the three west Surrey acute hospitals – Ashford and St Peter's, Frimley Park and the Royal Surrey County Hospitals. "It also identifies the key areas of discussion – emergency and urgent care, maternity and children's and cancer services – and looks at how these services might operate under various scenarios. "The workshop considered potential models of care that could serve the west Surrey population, and agreed that one possible model that delivers both a balance of access, and specialist care for emergency patients, could consist of two 'hot' sites, with major accident and emergency departments, and an urgent care centre on a 'cold' site, which would potentially be able to see and treat at least 60 per cent of current accident and emergency attendances. "Although further work needs to be done, the report suggests that under these models, it would be advantageous for very specialist cancer services to remain at the Royal Surrey County hospital and that Frimley Park hospital should remain as one of the 'hot' sites. "This report has been an important step forward because it is based solely on advice from clinicians in the west of the county. "However, we want to stress that these are only potential solutions based on the best clinical advice that we have at the moment. "We appreciate that there are considerable levels of public anxiety, particularly around potential changes to acute services but we need to respond to advances in medicine, medical skills and technology to ensure the local population gets the best care. "We want to reiterate that no decisions have been made and that any proposals for changes to local health services will be subject to a full and rigourous public consultation. "Further work is already underway to test these models using future patient flows, accessibility, clinical safety and quality and financial viability. "The local NHS is planning more public involvement, building on the work already undertaken with over 300 members of the local population, before drawing up options for public consultation".
Clinicians propose ‘hot sites’ for A&E
Thursday 12th April 2007 10:00 pm