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.
(See letter of response from Sarah McLennan of NHS Wiltshire)
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."
Police have now ruled out the possibility that a dead badger found with a rubber ring round its neck on the edge of Cooper’s Meadow, Marlborough, early on Sunday may have been a victim of badger baiters.
But how it got there – and how it died – remains a mystery unlikely to be solved, one new factor being that injuries to its abdomen are likely to have been inflicted by rats or even birds.
The young animal, found under trees on the edge of the River Kennet, just beyond the bridge to the Waitrose car park, by early morning dog walkers, is more likely to have been dumped there by a motorist who killed it on the road.
A black plastic bag in which it might have been carried was found close to the body. The rubber ring too may have been a means of dragging it to the spot.
But that theory is also open to doubt as a local naturalist pointed out that badgers are more often gassed or shot on farmers’ land. They are then deposited on busy roads, to make it appear as if they were killed by a passing vehicle.
“It really remains a bit of a mystery,” Wiltshire Police’s rural crime team officer PC John Bordiss told Marlborough News Online. “It is clearly illegal to kill or injure a badger. If anyone has any information that may be of help to us then will they please contact Marlborough police station.”
PC Bordiss contacted a local badger group and Natural England after police received reports of the dead badger and they photographed the scene.
An RSPCA inspector subsequently visited Cooper’s Meadow, examined the dead badger, took more photographs and ruled out the need for a post mortem. He concluded that it was not a case of badger baiting.
And it now appears that the injuries to the badger are likely to have happened after it was dumped.
Val Compton, a Wiltshire Wildlife Trust rescue volunteer, who lives nearby, saw the dead animal after she was alerted of its discovery. She reports that it had no injuries when she too took photographs (see picture).
“I suspect the injury that was photographed some time later may have been caused by another animal or bird having a feast,” she told Marlborough News Online. “Knowing the number of rats in Cooper’s Meadow, I can imagine they would not have taken long to find it.”
“But the rubber band around its neck could have been used as a tourniquet to strangle it.”
PC Bordiss pointed out there was no evidence of badger baiting taking place in Wiltshire, the crime being more prevalent in neighbouring counties like Gloucestershire.
“Usually they cut off the front paws, terribly as that is, but that hadn’t happened here,” he said. “We have heard of no similar incidents happening.”
“And if it is badger baiting, then why leave the animal there?”
The police have logged and recorded the badger’s demise. “It’s very difficult for us to dig deeper,” added PC Bordiss. “There is no trail that we can follow. We have done all we can so far.”
“We shall keep a watch out in case there are further incidents happening.”
An outbreak of vandalism has resulted in Wiltshire Council carrying out a trial closure of Marlborough’s George Lane public toilets overnight for four weeks.
There have been ongoing problems from night time vandalism at the toilets causing an increased expenditure in repairs, maintenance and extra cleaning costs.
The toilets will remain open during the day as normal. The facility will be closed at 8pm each night and opened at 6am each morning.
The disabled toilets will continue to be available for 24 hours a day.
Marlborough Town Council has been consulted about the closure, says a council spokesman.
All MPs will be subject to the same significant pension changes as thousands of public sector workers now on strike across the country, Prime Minister David Cameron has revealed – all thanks to a question in the Commons from Marlborough’s MP Claire Perry.
She asked him during question time yesterday (Wednesday):
“The Prime Minister alluded earlier to the contract between taxpayers and public servants, but there is also a contract between taxpayers and MPs.
“Does he agree that MPs should be in the vanguard of reforming pensions by reforming our own, so that we can look our public sector constituents in the face?
Mr Cameron replied: “I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Members of the House are public sector workers too, and we should be subject to exactly the same changes that we are asking others to take on.
“Therefore, the increase in contributions should apply to the MP system, even though we already pay in quite a lot. We are saying that right across the board, the increase in pension contributions is right to create a healthier long-term system.”
Mrs Perry has today also written to the Leader of the House, Sir George Young pointing out: “In light of the tough choices the Government is having to make on public-sector pensions, I believe that Members should be leading by example and reform their own final-salary pension arrangements in the near future.
“I am aware that Ministers have been consulting with ISPA on the proposals however the lack of activity in the public eye could be construed as an attempt by MPs to not share the same brunt of the deficit reduction as the public sector.
“I would therefore like to urge for an acceleration in these reforms and would welcome your involvement to speed up the progress of the proposals.”
But one Marlborough teacher on strike today, who asked not to be identified, claimed that Mrs Perry’s “planted” question was all part of a government propaganda exercise to disguise the fact that it was unwilling to negotiate the core issues in its “so-called pension reforms”.
“All this talk about unsustainable and untenable public section pensions is not reflected in Lord Hutton’s report to the government, which is being used to manipulate the system,” said the teacher.
“According to him, despite the increase in longevity we all welcome, the cost of public sector pensions is declining, not rising. This is just another blatant attempt to bash the workers.”
The teacher accepted that strikes were unhelpful to the economy but insisted that the government’s “slash and burn” policies were as well.
There was concern that the pension changes would harm future recruitment of graduates already burdened with paying off tuition fees, and this would have a knock-on effect on Education Secretary’s Michael Gove’s reforms, some of which were welcome.
But the teacher returned to the pension debacle and added: “You only have to listen to government ministers on radio – or watch them on telly today – to see them squirming when they are asked pertinent questions they can’t answer.
“There is just this eternal mantra about people not going on strike while negotiations are still going on. They want to discuss the finite details and just refuse to budge an inch on the basic changes they are pushing through to our detriment. It’s so shameful.”
The sale of five small parcels of land on the Stonebridge Meadow for an estimated £14,000 is to go ahead as part of Marlboroughtown council’s partnership project with ARKto revamp the 15-acre site.
The sites will add space to the back gardens of houses on the edge of the meadow, bought jointly by the council and ARK for £150,000, and provide an initial boost for the estimated £43,000 cost of the scheme.
Its aim is to protect and enhance the area, which a botanical survey has revealed contains rare Black Poplar trees on the Kennet river bank, and to introduce community activities once major outside funding is obtained.
“The point of selling this land is for the benefit of this important project,” Councillor Richard Pitts told the town council, who approved the sale.