On November 6th last year, after two previous cancellations, Labour and
Conservative councillors from Lichfield District, Lichfield City and
Burntwood Town councils together with charity workers from the Victoria
Hospital in Lichfield and the Hammerwich Hospital in Burntwood journeyed to
London to meet the Health Minister at a meeting arranged by Michael
Fabricant to discuss the future of hospital services in the area. A swift
reply was promised. Nothing came despite reminders. In Health Questions in
the House of Commons yesterday, Michael Fabricant asked John Hutton
(Minister for Health) as a supplementary question related to the recruitment
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that
there are variations in the recruitment of radiographers and nurses both
within and between regions? That has a lot to do with the uncertainty about
the continued existence of certain hospitals. On two occasions, the right
hon. Gentleman was unable to see a delegation from Lichfield and Burntwood
to discuss the future of hospitals in the area, where there is real
uncertainty about the future of day surgery. We met the Under-Secretary of
State in the other place, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, in November. He promised
to respond rapidly, but we still have not received a reply. When will we get
a reply? When will we be able to recruit the nurses and radiographers that
we need? This matter goes back to November.
Mr. Hutton: The fact that I was unable to meet the delegation was not for
want of trying, nor because I had no desire to meet the hon. Gentleman. The
hon. Gentleman knows why I was not able to attend those meetings. On one
occasion I had to travel to Ottawa to attend an international forum dealing
with issues connected with bioterrorism. I hope that hon. Members would
regard that as a pretty good reason. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman —
Michael Fabricant: Soon?
Mr. Hutton: Today. The hon. Gentleman will get the letter later this
afternoon. However, he may be interested to know that my right hon. Friend
the Secretary of State is to hold a meeting on expanding access to day
surgery tomorrow. I shall keep the hon. Gentleman informed of progress.
(All taken from Hansard)
"The Minister kept his word and we finally received a response this
morning", says Michael Fabricant. The text of the letter now follows:-
I am sorry I was unable to attend the meetings with yourself and your
colleagues. As you know, in both instances I had urgent and unavoidable
business out of the country. I have been briefed on the issues raised when
you met Lord Hunt on 6th November.
I realise that, although you welcome the provision of a new hospital, you
are understandably concerned about the possible effect the new hospital, and
the disruption caused during its build, may have on the ability of the local
Health Authority to provide suitable healthcare for the community.
The first issue raised was in connection with the phrasing used by the
Health Authority in the final report on the formal consultation. The phrase
"new site will have up to 52 beds" gave concern that this might indicate a
lower number of beds than previously (52 beds across the 3 sites). Can I
reassure you that no final decisions have yet been taken, and I will ask the
Health Authority and Primary Care Trusts to involve you fully in further
local discussions on this.
The issue of total cost of the new hospital and disposal of old sites was
raised, to which a breakdown of cost was requested. I have been informed
that the original development costs mentioned during the consultation were
an estimate. The actual costs are to be confirmed as part of the detailed
planning stage, which has yet to be completed.
The formal consultation was to identify how community hospital services in
South Staffordshire could be best developed, given that the status quo was
not an option. It is proposed however that the disposal of sites will
partly fund the new development, with the remainder funded from the Regional
Capital Programme. This will include the disposal of the colposcopy unit
which, although funded through donations, remains the property of South
Staffordshire Healthcare NHS Trust.
You raised the concern of your constituents regarding the issue of loss of
day surgery within Lichfield. The case for combining day surgery on to the
Sir Robert Peel Hospital site in Tamworth was that:
· Operating theatres in the current three locations stand unused for
nearly half the time available.
· The cost of replacing the facilities in Lichfield would be £1.8m with
an ongoing yearly cost of £0.18m.
· Pre-consultation with the public last year identified that people were
most concerned about waiting time for treatment. Longer journey times were
felt to be acceptable for a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ need for day surgery.
· By targeting resources on treatment rather than ‘bricks and mortar’,
it is possible to reduce waiting times.
The figures for theatre usage are those provided by South Staffordshire
Healthcare NHS Trust, which is responsible for the existing hospital
services in Burntwood, Lichfield and Tamworth. The results of surveys of
day surgery patients using community hospitals were published to inform the
report on the results of the public consultation process.
The new hospital will enable outpatient clinics to be located on a single
site together with the diagnostic and therapy facilities needed for a
comprehensive outpatient consultation. This removes the current problem of
outpatient clinics being provided on different sites.
In regard to maternity services, I am informed that this service was omitted
from the consultation and will remain as it is pending the release of
The issue of hospital size and ability to cope with expansion in the future
was raised, in conjunction with a proposal by Bryant to discuss the
possibility of a land swap. The Health Authority have confirmed that they
have been contacted by Bryant but that even with acquisition of the adjacent
strip of land, the Victoria site is still smaller than the St. Michael’s
site. The St. Michael’s site is big enough for both the current and
future-projected building and car parking requirements for the new hospital.
They also confirm that disposal of any adjacent land will take
account of future needs.
I am aware that concerns have also been raised in regard to transport. The
Health Authority has acknowledged a need to consider the transport
implications of any changes, but this was felt to be the case whichever site
had been chosen. I am assured that the Trust and the Primary Care Trust are
in discussion with relevant parties to resolve this issue.
The final point raised was around the confirmation of Community Health
Councils’ agreement to the proposals put forward by the Health Authority. I
understand that neither objected in full to any of the five proposals
accepted by the Health Authority, and that the one proposal they did object
to – the closure of Barton Cottage Hospital – was subsequently modified.
I hope this helps to clarify the points you raised and reassures you of my
commitment to see that local concerns have been accounted for within the
"The Minister has not responded at all to representations made to him about
the closure of the Hammerwich Hospital and the provision of in-patient
facilities in Burntwood. I shall remind him of this", says Michael
Fabricant. "I am also concerned about the continued uncertainty regarding
the long-term future of the Maternity Unit. I privately asked Alan Millburn
(Secretary of State for Health – John Hutton’s ‘boss’) yesterday when the
national guidance on the future of maternity units will be published and he
didn’t know as no date has yet been set. We shall continue to fight for no
reduction in the number of beds in our expanding area as the Minister states
that ‘no final decisions have yet taken’ regarding this. Finally, I am
still not convinced that day surgery should be moved out of Lichfield.
"As I have always said: at a time when our area is expanding in size, we
should be discussing more facilities, not fewer".