Tewkesbury Town Council will be holding a public meeting at 7.30pm on Tuesday, November 15, in the Watson Hall in Barton Street. The meeting will allow people to have their say on the controversial plans for Tewkesbury`s proposed new PFI hospital which will cost £10 million. This follows the collection of over 2,200 petition signatures by campaigners Anita Haycock (who worked as a nursing auxiliary at the Barton Road site for 25 years) and her husband Sam. The petition called for a meeting to discuss the reduction in bed capacity from the existing hospital`s 48 beds to the new hospital`s 20 beds.
At present a substantial proportion of the beds are used for patients referred from Cheltenham and Gloucester. NHS Gloucestershire, which has refused to attend the meeting, insists that this practice will be reduced in time for the new hospital, due to a new mode of service provision where “more integrated primary, community and social care teams aim to maintain patients in their own homes”.
Local Conservative MP Laurence Robertson raised his concerns with Health Secretary Andrew Lansley in January and was apparently not reassured by the reply he received, saying:
“I fear that the local philosophy regarding treating people at home has tended to come about during time of financial tightening.”
“In other words, if sending people home early is the right thing to do, why wasn’t that policy followed 10 or 20 years ago?”
“It might be a good theory but we need to make sure that if people are sent home from hospital early, there are proper services available to them at home.”
Last month Mike Sztymiak, a town, borough and county councillor (Independent), echoed the campaigners` call for a public meeting:
“I think the public have very legitimate reasons for asking a lot of valid questions that they want answers to. There were over 2,200 signatures on that petition. These issues should be debated and answers given. At the end of the day, it’s the people’s NHS. I shall be asking the town council to hold a public meeting.”
Is the case for a new PFI hospital genuine or political?
In case anyone is inclined to take the case for any new, reduced capacity PFI hospital over a refurbished one at face value, the shocking case of Coventry`s PFI hospital should be borne in mind, as exposed by journalist George Monbiot. Monbiot wrote:
In Coventry, NHS bosses originally sought £30m of public money to refurbish the city’s two hospitals. When the government told them it was “PFI or bust”, the refurbishment plan was dropped in favour of a scheme to knock down both hospitals and build a new one – with fewer beds and doctors and nurses – at an eventual, corporate-friendly cost of £410m. A report commissioned by the local health authority found that the scheme had been “progressively tailored to fit the needs of private investors”.