|NHS chiefs re-open Parkgate Day Hospital, Roehampton|
Council intervenes saying they had closed without proper public consultation
Local NHS chiefs have been forced to re-open two local hospitals after an intervention by Wandsworth Council.
The U-turn came after the council warned the trust that unless both hospitals were fully re-opened to all their patients, the council would formally ask health secretary Patricia Hewitt to intervene and order trust managers to immediately reopen them.
The two hospitals - Parkgate in Roehampton and Cottage in Tooting - have been earmarked for closure by the trust as part of a package of financial savings.
But although the trust accepted this argument and agreed to put the closure plans on ice, within ten days of giving that public pledge they closed both units down long before the consultation had even begun.
All patients who'd been attending the day hospitals were discharged and both were shut for a week. They subsequently re-opened but only to provide a limited service to existing in-patients at Springfield and Queen Mary’s hospitals. All out-patient services ceased.
The council's pressure has led to the trust now agreeing to write to all the patients who were recently discharged from the two hospitals to tell them that they are welcome to resume their attendance, and that both will remain open for the duration of the consultation period and until agreement is reached on a way forward.
The council's health scrutiny chairman Cllr James Cousins said: "This is a victory for us in our role as a health service watchdog. It is also a victory for the people who use these two hospitals and have come to rely on the services they provide.
"Closing any hospital is a serious matter for patients and the wider community, and it is only right and proper that there should be full scrutiny of what is being proposed as a replacement before any services are withdrawn.
"But even though the trust gave us a clear and unequivocal commitment that it would not close these units down until the consultation process had been completed and local people had had their say - just a few days later both were effectively shut down in complete contravention of that agreement.
"If the trust had been permitted to get away with riding roughshod over this process, then it would have represented a serious threat to the integrity of statutory consultation arrangements and we were right to resist this.
"Having said that I am pleased that the trust has now agreed to our demands and that both hospitals will remain open until there has been ample time to properly scrutinise their proposals - and that at least for the time being, patients who were discharged will be able to continue receiving services."
A formal consultation document setting out the trust’s case for closure will be issued soon. The consultation process is expected to continue until October 2005.
The council's powers to refer the closure plans to the secretary of state are contained in section 4 (5) (a) of the Local Authority (Overview and Scrutiny Committees Health Scrutiny Functions) Regulations 2002.
July 14, 2005