It really was a packed hall – and very hot! Nearly 400 people came to question Rachel Tyndall (Chair of the Review panel putting forward the proposals on A&E, maternity and all) and Richard Sumray (Chair of Haringey PCT). Robert Gorrie facilitated the meeting (LibDemCouncil leader). Having told the hall he was LibDem Leader – that was the extent of party politics – there were none on the night – this was a meeting for real people to question the health bosses.
There was never going to be enough time for all the questions and comment and the answers that were given, on the whole, weren’t as tight or definitive as all of us would want. An example would be – if everyone rejects the proposal in the coming consultation – will you keep the A&E open?’ Needless to say the answer was alog the ‘we can’t say what will be in the consultation at this point’.
However, Rachel Tyndall was pretty upfront about one of the models for the future closing A&E which would see it replaced by an urgent care centre. She also talked quite a lot about money and the fact it was going to flatline now in this economy whilst the demand grows – thus leaving a massive budgetary hole down the line.
Here are some of the questions and answers – but there were many so this is a summation – but many missing am sure.
Those who came were magnificent – and asked many of the questions that needed to be asked. Is this privatisation? Ms Tyndall: if the private sector offers something better – that is what people want. Have you done any of the social science research – ie finding out from people about their usage? Sumray: yes we have and we have consulted with people. (Author’s note – the consultation with ‘people’ was eighty people. Across five boroughs that is not exactly a good sample). Accessibility of the site and travel and transport: Sumray – we will do a transport report. One of the audience kindly pointed out (accurately) that Hornsey Hospital has been built and still only has the same one bus it had before the new facility was there. How can the Royal Free take 80,000 from the Whittington on top of the 90,000 already going there? It won’t be 80,000 as so many can be treated in other ways. Follow on questions: so if 30,000 people are going to go to an out of hours GP instead of A&E – where are those doctors coming from? Not answered. What about people dying from extra journey times? Ah- but they will get better care when they get there. What are the criteria for consultation? There aren’t any yet. Where will the decision be made? It will be made by the joint committee of the five local PCTs. What about the high infant mortality rate? If A&E go – that will get worse. It isn’t the birth bit that is the problem – most deaths happen in the first year after birth. Have you got the figures for what it costs to run the Whittington as I asked last time at the last meeting? No I still don’t have them but if you give me your name and address I will make sure you get them.
There are many issues to cover – but one outstanding case was made re the numbers and type of need of the users of A&E. A couple of days before the meeting – we were notified that Rachel Tyndall was bringing a clinician to answer any medical/clinical questions. So I decided I needed to meet fire with fire – and found Ben Timmis, a Consultant at the Whittington, who is Chair of the Whittington Hospital Support Committee, which is a newly formed sub-committee of the main hospital Medical Committee – the medical advisory structure of the hospital.
One of the audience asked a question to the clinician, Philippa Curran, speaking for the Review Panel (as Ms Tyndall had kept banging home the point that this whole thing was clinically led) as to whether she really believed this would deliver better health care. I think Ms Curran was very nervous – and made a complete hash of the answer – inferring that people feeling unwell needed to consider whether it was serious and then make a decision as to which hospital to go to. The audience just laughed and she lost all credibility. It was pretty harsh for her – but it absolutely proved the case that when the Trust and Review panel claim this is clinician led – it is pretty dubious as to what that actually means.
Then Ben Timmis was called and this is a real super-point that takes away from the health bosses claim that out of the 80,000 visits to the Whittington A&E half could be seen elsewhere.
I can’t remember the exact figures (and won’t have my notes until tomorrow) but out of that 80,000, something like 15,000 are admitted, a further 30,000 are treated and then go home – but this is the one I hadn’t even thought of – another 30,000 need the sort of investigative tests, examination and so on to make sure it isn’t something more serious and then can be sent home if in the clear. And Mr Timmis made it crystal clear that these examinations to eliminate a serious illness etc can ONLY be done in a proper A&E department. Game, set and match I thought!
I wish we could have had another couple of hours – as there were so many people who wanted to speak but who didn’t get called. However, Rachel and Richard have agreed to come back again – and I have no doubt that both of them are under no illusions about how local people feel about our A&E!