Anger and frustration spilled over at a public meeting held by Erewash MP Maggie Throup and NHS chiefs to discuss healthcare cuts.
Large stretches of Thursday’s meeting at Kirk Hallam Community Academy descended into a shouting match between more than 70 members of the public and the panellists.
The meeting had been convened by Erewash MP Maggie Throup o give the public some answers over healthcare cuts in her constituency and across Derbyshire.
Derbyshire’s Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) – which decide which NHS services are offered in the county – must make £51m in funding cuts by April due to a £95m overspend.
This has seen NHS chiefs review all services which they are not ‘legally obliged’ to offer – which includes discretionary grants to volunteer-run organisations, such as Community Concern Erewash.
The organisation, which helps care for the vulnerable and elderly, keeping them out of hospital and in their own homes – saving the NHS millions of pounds – is due to shut as a result of withdrawn funding for services from the CCGs.
Ahead of the meeting, NHS campaigners claimed that between six to 10 beds were set to be cut from Ilkeston Community Hospital on October 1 – it is thought that bed reductions could form part of the £51 million in cuts.
Staff members from the hospital say they have already been told this will happen.
However, William Jones, chief operating officer for Derbyshire Community Health Services – which oversees the hospital – denied this repeatedly at the meeting.
He said: “We haven’t made any decisions about bed closures in Ilkeston.”
Dr Chris Clayton, chief executive of the Derbyshire CCGs – which are undertaking plans for a full merger – said a full review into beds in the county was under way.
He said: “We need to have the right proportion of beds, not all patients are the same and not all beds are the same, we probably have too many of a certain type of bed.”
Healthcare beds are split into four main categories, a hospital bed such as in A&E; Pathway Three, which is a community hospital bed; Pathway Two, which is in a care or nursing home; and Pathway One which is at a patient’s home but with assistance.
Dr Clayton said: “It is well accepted that we do have and we use more Pathway Three beds, like at Ilkeston, than we need to. We need to review that situation in sites such as Ilkeston to get the best for our patients.
“But we will not close beds until we are confident that we have the right replacements.”
Gavin Boyle, chief executive of the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust (UHDB), said that there are not enough Pathway Two beds – with too many patients ending up in hospital when they could be closer to home.
He said: “Sometimes a patient needs to be discharged and the right beds are not available, so these patients end up in community beds, like at Ilkeston.”
When asked how the NHS in Derbyshire could avoid a further overspend, Mr Boyle commented: “The key dilemma is that if a patient arrives at my hospital in an ambulance, I can’t and wouldn’t want to turn them away, and care in my hospital is very costly.
“What we are struggling with as a healthcare system is not just about not having the money, it is also about improving the quality of the service.”
Mr Boyle said the CCGs had increased funding for emergency care at UHDB by four per cent due to a prediction that a need for emergency care would rise this year.
He said ‘as a healthcare body, we face an immediate problem with funding’.
Ms Throup said, after an extended period of jeering by passionate members of the audience, that ‘some of the changes that were going to be made are not now going to be made’.
She said: “You actually get more results when you talk sensibly and when you put the facts forward and come to a decision between everybody.”
Dr Avi Bhartia, chairman of Erewash CCG and a GP in Long Eaton, said that there was a ‘clear challenge’ with regards to funding for the voluntary sector.
He said: “Will these people take up hospital beds if funding is pulled? It is something we need to work on and we refer to it as unforeseen consequences.
“But what we are also trying to focus on is training up and keeping our staff.”
Dr Clayton was asked how the CCGs would avoid falling into more financial difficulty in the future – with a forecast of another £71 million in cuts predicted for the next financial year.
He said that by working together as one organisation, the CCGs could avoid areas of inconsistency and duplication.
Dr Clayton said: “We are in the process of a formal merger to get this moving and this should remove any chance of postcode lotteries.”
He reiterated that despite the proposed cuts to discretionary grants to the voluntary sector – £1.2 million over four years – the CCGs are still spending £8.5 million on volunteer-run organisations each year, and are spending close to £1.6 billion on healthcare in Derbyshire this year alone.
Meanwhile, the question over whether there would be a formal consultation was not answered, with Zara Jones, the executive director of commissioning for the Derbyshire CCGs, saying that one is only required if there are to be “major service changes”.
Speaking after the meeting, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Erewash, Catherine Atkinson said she ‘shared the frustrations’ of the audience, including around the perceived lack of answers.
She said: “We got no assurance over beds or the cuts. This meeting needed to be held three months ago, it is three months too late.
“What all of this comes down to is a false economy of savings.”