The fate of the Victoria Hospital in Lichfield and Hammerwich Hospital has been delayed once again – this time until after June 7th, the expected date of the General Election. (Originally, firm proposals were expected to be published in September 2000 and a firm decision made in November of last year!).
However, at a meeting between Staffordshire MPs and the South Staffordshire Health Authority at the beginning of March this year, the MPs were told that the formal consultation document would be published in April and a final decision on hospital services would be made in October. Now, Michael Fabricant has learned that firm proposals will not be agreed by the Health Authority until June 12th after which the document will be published. "The timing of this announcement is clearly a political decision", says Michael Fabricant.
"As I understand it now, it is likely that recommendations will be made to slash the number of hospital beds by a half, day surgery in Lichfield (including the operating theatre and other facilities) will be moved to Tamworth, the Hammerwich Hospital will be closed down completely, but that the good news is that the Dialysis Unit in Lichfield will be saved. The fate of the Victoria Hospital itself, built and paid for by the people of Lichfield, still remains in considerable doubt. What services remain in Lichfield may be moved to another site. The fact is: the Health Authority still have a running deficit of over £6 million and the Government expect savings to be made. No extra funding is being made available. They have been put in an impossible position.
"As for the Maternity Unit which so many people want to keep in Lichfield, this is now likely to have a stay of execution for about a year while the Government conduct a national ‘delaying inquiry’ into the future of all local maternity units. But the sword of Damocles will still hang over it. If a Labour Government is re-elected, they are likely to finalise their report in 2002. It is expected that they will not recommend the continuation of smaller units. This would then result in the closure of the Maternity Unit in Lichfield.
I will continue to fight for the preservation of hospital services in Lichfield and Burntwood. With an increase in house building, the population of our City is expanding, not contracting: we need more services- not fewer!"