Minor injuries hospital treatment row explodes again
New serious concerns over the treatment of people suffering from minor injuries has resulted from an exchange of letters between Savernake Hospital champion Val Compton (pictured)and NHS Swindon.
She is to challenge the decision of NHS Swindon to send some of the cases that would previously have been treated by Clover Unit, in the Great Western Hospital, to the Carfax Street health centre, Swindon. Patients from Marlborough and the surrounding villages will now be directed to go to a site three miles further on if their minor injuries are deemed to be non-urgent.
Before closure in 2007, more than 8,000 patients a year were treated at Savernake Hospital Minor Injury Unit (MIU).
The changes have happened in the wake of the failed High Court battle to prevent the MIU at Savernake closing down following a decision by Wiltshire PCT to close most MIUs in the county.
Mrs Compton is demanding to know in particular whether the changes fly in the face of Wilthsire PCT's, (now known as NHS Wiltshire) self-imposed condition in their High Court victory that MIU services should be available within a 15-mile limit of the homes of those living in the county.
The only minor injury units remaining open within Wiltshire are in Chippenham and Trowbridge, NHS Wiltshire is relying upon surrounding areas to provide this service, for which they pay a pre-arranged national tariff rate.
And she is claiming this will raise important issues for patients:
* confusion over which of the three categories their injuries may fall into and what action needs to be taken.
* travelling the extra distance, since the Carfax Street health centre is a further three miles away from Great Western Hospital in Swindon.
* lack of communication -- most people do not even know Clover Unit has a new ruling on the definition of the urgent minor injury cases it can deal with, non-urgent cases being sent to Carfax Street.
* most patients will require a printed map to find Carfax Street and, on arrival, will be fortunate to park because of the confined space available.
* what action, if any, NHS Wiltshire has taken to inform patients of these significant changes -- and whether they satisfied they are fulfilling their own 15-mile limit availability of treatment for patients living in Marlborough and surrounding villages.
* why is there no indication on NHS Wiltshire’s own website that Clover Unit and Carfax Street centre treat different categories of minor injuries.
“The situation is alarming,” Mrs Compton told Marlborough News Online. “The closure of the MIU at Savernake has created a real mess that must leave potential patients totally confused. To add to this, we now have three categories of minor injury.”
"The most minor is treat at home or with pharmacy advice, the second to take to Carfax Sreet, Chippenham or Trowbridge, and the third category is an urgent minor injury that can be treated at the Clover Unit. It is outrageous that patients should have to make all these decisions at a time they are injured, in pain and possibly not thinking straight.”
And she demands to know: “Who made these decisions and when? Why on earth has no one issued information to the public about these changes affecting the Clover Unit? Will other units in surrounding areas also change the rules?
“I understand the drive to keep all but life threatening emergencies out of A&E, but there now seems to be huge confusion over minor injuries.”
“Why hasn’t Swindon NHS or Wiltshire NHS explained the situation? I have found nothing in the press and nothing on NHS Wiltshire's website. I have asked questions of NHS Swindon but, as yet, I have had no satisfactory answers.”
“They seem unclear about what they are doing and the posters and press release they have now sent simply create further questions.”
Mrs Compton is writing to local MP Claire Perry and raising the issues with the NHS bodies covering Wiltshire because of her concern that the proper procedures may not have been followed and the changes now operating made without any consultation taking place.
Following the judicial review, she explained, it would be a serious matter as the Department of Health has made it clear that consultation should take place, particularly with "hard to reach" groups of people such as minor injury patients. There is a laid down procedure and it appears to have been ignored.
“The question of consultation was one of the prime issues when the MIU and the day hospital at Savernake were closed and we sought a judicial review,” she pointed out. “It seems we are again back to square one, but in a worse situation now, given the air of uncertainty created by the coalition government."