A last-minute plea to listen to the concerns of GPs representing 50,000 patients was ignored today as the governing body of the East Riding CCG voted to approve controversial plans to close three minor injuries units.
Withernsea GP Dr David Fitzsimons was the only member of the 11-strong body to vote against the plans, which sparked 21 petitions signed by 25,000 people.
Although the CCG has said the plans are not about saving money, it followed another vote to approve a £6.8m deficit budget, requiring more than £15m savings and efficiencies.
Dr Fitzsimons told the meeting in Willerby that when GPs representing 15 per cent of the CCG population raised concerns it would increase health inequalities “they should be listened to.”
He called for a pause to get the plans “more ironed out” saying people in remote areas like Kilnsea and Sunk Island “were wondering how to access palliative care and urgent care.”
The plans will see MIUs close in Hornsea, Withernsea and Driffield. Withernsea will also lose its 12 hospital beds, to be replaced by intensive support at home and care home beds.
Urgent care centres, open 16 hours a day and with access to X-ray, will open at Beverley, Bridlington and Goole.
The CCG is offering as a concession a slot per hour at Withernsea and Driffield hospitals and Hessle for “low-level” minor injuries but they must be booked via NHS 111. But the “8 to 8” centres have already been widely criticised as a poor substitute for walk-in MIUs.
Holderness Health Alliance, representing practices in Hedon, Hornsea and Withernsea, said the decision “substantially reduces services to nearly 50,000 patients in Holderness.” It added: “Patients with the highest health needs and lowest access to transport will lose out. Our view is this will impact further on their health.”
The Alliance said for many local residents - only three per cent of whom fully supported the urgent care proposals - their only option would be go to A&E in Hull, which is already under immense pressure - and a 35-mile round trip from Withernsea.
The impact of the changes will also be felt in Bridlington, where the town’s highly-valued 12-bed Macmillan Wolds unit will close.
Beds will be provided in care homes and an intensive rehabilitation centre will open at the East Riding Hospital in Beverley.
MPs Greg Knight and Graham Stuart have written to the East Riding Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee calling on them to refer the plans to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
They said the removal of Hornsea’s MIU was “widely regarded as a betrayal of the community.” They also opposed the removal of community beds from Bridlington and Withernsea hospitals as “people did not want to be stranded miles from friends and relatives.”
The meeting heard there were no nursing homes in Withernsea so people needing palliative care in a care home bed will have to go to Hedon or Beverley.
The CCG has said they want to provide palliative care in the community, with support at home, and there will also be 25 “Time to Think” beds. It said they had tested the model over the winters of 2015 and 2016 and “patient experience of returning to independence and home following this has been excellent.”