"We had constructive and frank talks this afternoon concerning the future of hospital care in Lichfield and Burntwood. However, there are still many areas concerning local health care over which we could not agree and which I will now pursue with Ministers in the Department of Health", said Michael Fabricant following his meeting in Lichfield with David Murray, Chairman of the South Staffordshire Health Authority, and Melvyn Ellis, Chief Executive. The MP and Health Authority were discussing the long awaited consultation document on community health care which was finally published the day after the general election.
"I have agreed that it is not logical that Lichfield’s hospital should be at two sites, but I am not convinced that the Health Authority have sufficiently explored the financial viability of extending the Victoria site" (The proposal by the Health Authority is to sell off the Victoria site for housing and use the old St Michael’s site). "Land at the rear of the Victoria Hospital has planning permission for hospital use. No-one could tell me the comparative costs of acquiring this land and selling off the St Michael’s site instead when I inquired about this today. I have asked the Health Authority to undertake an analysis of this alternative as a matter of urgency.
"I do not accept that day surgery should be transferred to Tamworth. The Health Authority said there is "over capacity" as these facilities exist in both Cannock and Tamworth. But I told the Health Authority that it would be meaningless to construct a new hospital without surgical facilities particularly at a time when Lichfield is expanding in size. I am conscious that patients who are unwell should not be expected to travel to Tamworth or Cannock. I have also asked that if the hospital is to be sited at St Michael’s, provision should be made there to expand the facilities at a later date to match a growing population. This was agreed.
"I was told that "up to 52 beds" would be available at the new site. I want to know precisely what minimum figure is acceptable to the Health Authority. I told them that the phrase "up to" is meaningless and can be misused.
"I was assured that following pressure, a minor injuries unit will now continue to be available in Lichfield and when I pressed the point, Melvyn Ellis assured me it will be as good as the present unit. I hope so. I was also reassured that all the existing out-patients facilities currently at the Vic will be maintained in Lichfield.
"The Maternity Unit has had a stay of execution for a few months. I made it very plain that I will oppose any future plans to close this unit."
"I was told that the Hammerwich Hospital must close with the loss of 20 beds. It is proposed that patients will be transferred to the new Lichfield hospital and to Cannock. I made it clear that this is not practical for some elderly and infirm patients and their visiting relatives. I have asked, therefore, that the plans to improve primary care facilities such as doctors’ surgeries in Burntwood should provide for a new facility to include an in-patient provision of, say, 5 beds, as well as a minor injuries unit, and out patients facilities. This would go some way to replace the loss of the Hammerwich Hospital. I told Mr Murray and Mr Ellis that it was unacceptable that all Burntwood facilities should be transferred elsewhere. I believe that they accepted these arguments and I hope they will now offer some constructive proposals along these lines.
I am upset that this excellent hospital is also due for closure. However, I was assured that none of these patients will be sent to Lichfield and the closure will have no impact on health care in Lichfield or in Burntwood. As Barton under Needwood is not in the Lichfield Parliamentary constituency, I will not pursue this matter. I hope that Janet Dean, the MP for the area, will."
"These measures will save the Health Authority around £1 million a year. However, Melvyn Ellis again confirmed to me that the Government continues to underfund the Health Authority by just under £5 million a year based on what the Department of Health states the Authority should be receiving. This is outrageous. As it is, South Staffordshire Health Authority is allocated less money per person than any other Health Authority in the West Midlands which in turn gets less than any other region. But then not to be given even the money allocated is a gross deceit by the Government. I will be taking this matter up in Parliament with Ministers and will be demanding an explanation.
"There is also some concern that the capital funds needed for the construction works now being proposed might also not be available. I will also endeavour to obtain some guarantees from the Government.
"It is imperative that doctors and as many local residents as possible unite and make their views known to the Health Authority. The consultation will last from the 19th June until 20th September. Only by speaking with one voice, can we be hopeful of continued hospital care in Lichfield and Burntwood."