Business group's letter on Scarborough Hospital fears

One of the meetings at the Royal Hotel last week
One of the meetings at the Royal Hotel last week

The text of the letter sent to York Teaching Hospital NHS Trust chairperson Susan Symington by the Scarborough Business Ambassadors, regarding possible cutbacks to Scarborough Hospital services:

We are writing to express our concern about the proposed review of Scarborough NHS services, as outlined at your “consultations” in the Royal Hotel on October 15.

Several of our members attended the meeting, after being advised of the proposed consultations by a third party. We have to say that the communication of these reviews was quite lacking, with our MP and other local politicians being seemingly kept in the dark. The impressive turnout at these meetings is testimony to the strength of local feelings on the subject, which shows a desire to swiftly mobilise on the issue, despite any obstacles, which may be in their way.

We were notified by an unsolicited email on October 12, which cast significant doubt on the future of A&E, paediatrics and obstetrics. The contents of this email was shared with one of your directors, who had attended one of our meetings in order to seek our assistance on medical recruitment, which was duly offered.

We were sent an email response by your CEO, which confirmed that there were indeed meetings planned to “ask …for their contribution on options for sustainable service in Scarborough”. This comment therefore states by inference that the current services in Scarborough are unsustainable. He has in part blamed the lack of recruitment for this, albeit we must state that although we believe that we have helped the trust to find some solutions in this area, we must also convey our disappointment at the Trust’s decision NOT to accept our wider offer of assistance, which includes the assistance of Scarborough Borough Council, and which is serving other local institutions well; even those which hitherto had severe recruitment problems. We note that SBC are being engaged to help for future recruitment activity.

We acknowledge that there is a national recruitment issue within the NHS. We further acknowledge that the vacancies in Scarborough Hospital are more than in York. We do however contend that York itself is suffering from similar problems. Can you please advise therefore why this excuse is being used solely to commence a review, presumably in advance of an attack on services in Scarborough Hospital?

The A64 does indeed run in two directions and not just from East to West. Further, there is greater provision of services in the York area, and more so in its proximity to large urban centres such as Leeds, Harrogate and Bradford, to name but a few.

Scarborough, on the other hand, is some 45 miles from York Centre, and a little more to both Hull and Middlesbrough. This journey can take one hour and fifteen minutes. On many occasions in summer and winter this journey time can be extended significantly due to traffic volumes and the weather conditions.

Our concern with the removal, reduction or relocation of services is in part due to the large distance to travel between our respective institutions. At worst this will lead to the unnecessary loss of life, extended travel times for patients in sometimes extreme pain, and significant inconvenience for patients and their families, with the added “travel tax” that this would impose on a population with one of the lowest thresholds of car ownership in England and with wages currently well below the national average.

The remoteness of our situation, allied to the reasonably sizeable population must mean that Scarborough, as the second most remote hospital of its type in the country to serve such a population, must be considered as a special case when compared to cities like Manchester, with 30 hospitals within a similar 25 mile radius to Scarborough, which only has one, plus a few more minor though important facilities.

One can understand the logic of grouping some services in such a vast city with its abundant affordable local transport and tremendous road network. We do not have the luxury of these facilities and therefore cannot sustain the economic burden, which would be imposed by such changes to our services. We will NOT accept the burden of the threat to the lives or well being of our people in the Borough.

We acknowledge the comments of chief executive Mike Proctor that, “we may need national help in delivering the types of service we need to preserve in Scarborough”. In our view we are insistent that this “type of service”, remains no less than is currently offered by York NHS Trust in Scarborough. We are available to assist in the preservation and improvement of such services and insist that they remain located here.

We also note that neither Mr Proctor nor yourself took the time to engage in these reviews. We note further that is seems that no senior York based staff or Board members participated. We would therefore like to ask you if York NHS Trust has washed its hands of finding a Trust-wide solution to the current operational problems experienced by the Trust as a whole, laying the onus once again on Scarborough, despite the fact that the problems the Trust faces are shared problems and not unique to the Borough. Your hands are no cleaner if you ask someone else to fire the fatal shot.

We further note the comments of many local staff who attended the reviews and openly stated for the record that they had not been in any way involved or communicated to regarding these reviews. As their lives could potentially be affected, we question as to whether or not this is an acceptable way in which to treat your staff.

Indeed, the obstetrics staff in attendance were adamant that the relocation of some obstetrics services would. “lead to the loss of babies' lives”. We do not take their comments lightly.

Similar comments were made regarding the potential closure or dilution of A&E services, with the McKinsey consultant attending the evening session not ruling out such a dilution. We need to be clear that these issues are absolute red lines for our organisation, politicians and townspeople.

We would like you to confirm that the services provided by Scarborough Hospital will not be reduced in any way. We would like your commitment and the commitment of your Board to the continued full provision of these services in Scarborough.

It is only right that we share our deep concerns regarding the commencement of a process, which again singles out Scarborough for unilateral attention and the threat of further rationalisation and reduction of essential services.

We hereby set out those concerns on behalf of our members, our friends and our residents in the Borough and those beyond who depend on Scarborough Hospital, many of whom include local dignitaries, businessmen, politicians, health care professionals and residents.

We cannot stand back and watch the denigration of our services. It is our intention to support our Borough residents and all the users of Scarborough Hospital with the substantial support and means that we have at our disposal.

There is also the very important matter of Scarborough's industrial and business base and well-known plans for even greater development and investment, along with new housing for an anticipated 30,000 extra residents. On the economic front, Sirius Minerals are investing billions of pounds in the new potash mine in the borough, McCain Foods are investing more than £100m in their Scarborough plant, and there are 11 major engineering exporters. In addition we know of other significant business expansion plans - strongly reinforcing the absolute need to maintain and protect Scarborough health services.

We sincerely hope that the situation does not progress that far. We are here to assist in any way we can in order to support the provision of first class health care in the Borough of Scarborough.