Scarborough Hospital: health staff and public demand answers at 'tumultuous' meetings

NHS Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commissioning Group chief officer Simon Cox addresses one of the meetings at the Royal Hotel
NHS Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commissioning Group chief officer Simon Cox addresses one of the meetings at the Royal Hotel

Scarborough people made their opinions heard at two 'tumultuous' meetings about the future of Scarborough Hospital services.

It was standing room only at both meetings at the Royal Hotel yesterday, with almost 200 people at each one.

Healthcare staff, local GPs and members of the public filled the conference room at the Royal to ask questions to representatives from York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commissioning Group, who are undertaking a review of the services currently provided at the town's hospital.

In the past few days rumours had been spreading suggesting that drastic cuts to key services were on the table. These included the downgrading of the A&E department to a Minor Injuries Unit, the closure of the paediatric ward, the loss of obstetric cover in favour of a midwifery-led unit, and the reduction of emergency surgery and elective surgeries.

A petition objecting to these plans, which was only started yesterday, has already attracted over 12,000 signatures.

The health trust presentation at the Royal concentrated on process and criteria, but at both meetings it wasn't long before questions were shouted from the floor.

Orthopaedic surgeon Mark Andrews, representing the trust, dismissed claims at the first meeting suggesting the closure of Scarborough's A&E, saying it would close "over his own body". But no reassurance was given for other services on the basis that there are no proposals yet and that consultations are under way.

Speaking after the meeting, Gabrielle Askew, a registered nurse, said: "It was a bit woolly around the edges, there was nothing definite being put forward and it didn't reassure me in any way, shape or form about the future services at Scarborough Hospital.

"I'm quite sceptical that services will be protected but we'll have to see."

The second meeting, which began at 6pm, was "overtaken by a public torrent, and after the first question it became an uprising," said one audience member.

Along with Scarborough doctors and health staff present, the public made it clear that they thought the report undertaken for health chiefs by McKinsey consultants for £150,000 was already a done deal, that a casualty department might remain but not a full A&E, and that even more Scarborough Hospital services would be "centralised" in the interests of "sustainability" and for the benefit of York.

One medic said that clinicians and staff at Scarborough were under stress and were not supported by York; another speaker said lives were at risk from the trust's strategy.

“You are protecting York and crucifying Scarborough,” said another after an hour of outrage.

To tremendous applause, a female doctor at Scarborough Hospital said “it’s like being back in Nepal” as she reeled off a list of significant medical services taken away from Scarborough.

The McKinsey consultant reiterated the health trust line that: “There will still be an A&E at Scarborough Hospital."

There was outrage as it was revealed that McKinsey was paid £150,000 for its report on how Scarborough health services could be made more sustainable through centralisation. "Stripping Scarborough by stealth," said one member of the public.

Retired doctor John Paterson said: "York has systematically asset-stripped Scarborough", a statement greeted with tumultuous applause.

There was also concern at the lack of time and effort made to invite the public. “We are at the beginning of a process that is already decided,” said Dr Paterson.

Simon Cox, Chief Officer for Scarborough and Ryedale CCG, said: "The attendance was a bit greater than we thought. The original idea was that we would run a sort of smaller focus group with 20 or 30 people, we didn't really appreciate there would be the interest that there was.

"What we want to reassure people on is the fact that we still see a vibrant future for Scarborough Hospital, we want to maintain A&E and the services behind that."

When asked if the possibility of cuts to other departments could be ruled out, Mr Cox said: "It's not really about cuts, it's about how services are delivered. The clinical workforce across the NHS is changing. We will know towards the end of the review what the clinical options are."

Another public meeting to shape the evaluation criteria to be used whilst considering options for Scarborough Hospital is being held today at 2.30pm at East Riding Leisure, Bridlington.