Monday, May 08, 2006

"People will die as a result of your action"

The report below is from the Wiltshire Times on the crisis of health care in Wiltshire.

HEALTH chiefs came face-to-face with a packed hall of more than 200 angry hospital supporters at the first meeting of the Pathways for Change consultation.

Fears over problems with public transport to distant hospitals and the loss of the maternity unit at Trowbridge were two of the major issues sparking emotional reactions at the meeting held in Matravers School, Westbury, on Tuesday.

The purpose of the meeting, the first of a series across towns in the area, was to discuss the three options put forward for the future of health care by West Wiltshire and Kennet and North Wiltshire PCTs.

Under all three proposals Westbury and Bradford on Avon hospitals will remain shut and those in Trowbridge and Warminster will definitely close.

Under one of the options Melksham Hospital would also close leaving no community hospitals in west Wiltshire.

Before the meeting Westbury mayor Mike Hawkins gave an impassioned speech about the anger felt by many in the town.

"We are angry for what was done and the way it was done. We are angry about the way dedicated staff have been treated," he said.

"We are angry that having lost certain elements, and having been told these would be provided at neighbouring hospitals, we learn these other hospitals are also threatened."

Shiena Bowen, chairman of West Wiltshire PCT, told the audience the purpose of the consultation was not to discuss decisions already made but to move forward and look at the options available.

Carol Clarke's announcement that under one of the options Chippenham Hospital would be the nearest community hospital was met by sarcastic laughter by residents worried about the distance between the two towns.

Cllr John Clegg said: "As far as I can see the access is only available for somebody who has a car. A very large percentage of people don't have that facility.

"I question whether you have sat down and worked out how long it takes a relative to visit the stroke centre in Chippenham from Westbury."

Mrs Bowen said they were aware there were transport problems but these could not dictate how changes to health care were made.

"Once we've reached conclusions we'll have to influence the travel in place. We already have a transport group set up investigating patterns," she said.

"We know it is an issue everyone is concerned with and we will tackle it and make sure people can get from A to B."

Midwives from the maternity unit at Trowbridge Hospital spoke up and said the proposal to only have one unit in Chippenham would put mothers' and babies' lives at risk.

Mrs Clarke refused to answer directly yes or no whether the decision to close community hospitals was based on the financial crisis facing the west Wiltshire and Kennet and north Wiltshire PCTs, which are more than £20m in the red.

She said: "The PCT does have a financial problem which hasn't been addressed for a number of years but even if this PCT was balanced we'd still be putting the proposals forward because we believe it is the right thing to do for health care."

Dorian Jones, a member of the Westbury Hospital League of Friends, left the board with a stark message.

"People are going to die as a result of your actions," he warned.

The second meeting was due to be held in Devizes on Wednesday while a third meeting was held in Bradford on Avon last night.

Future meetings

• May 11: Melksham Assembly Hall
• May 15: Clarendon College, Trowbridge
• May 16: Chippenham Neeld Hall
• May 24: Corsham Town Hall
• June 6: Box Selwyn Hall
• June 7: Calne Town Hall


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