The Mid & South Essex Sustainability & Transformation Partnership (STP) refused to change to a larger venue or rearrange seating to accommodate more people at the original venue, Maritime Rooms at the Cliffs Pavilions, in spite of tickets to last night’s consultation event ‘selling out’ two weeks ago. Instead they decided to employ a firm of security guards to prevent entry of many non-ticket holders to the event, originally billed as ‘just turn up’.

#SaveSouthendNHS had a presence of thirty or so supporters outside the venue to distribute leaflets illustrating the real effects the STP is likely to have on local NHS services, and talk to attendees as they arrived.

Around 200 people were admitted to the 300 capacity venue to hear the standard spiel touted by the STP and its advocates. Their basic line is that with an ageing population and more demand on the NHS, they can’t adequately staff the three hospitals of Southend, Basildon and Broomfield.

According to the STP, changes to the way primary care (GPs etc.) is delivered will make our population much healthier, resulting in an amazing reduction in the need for service, including up to a 45% decrease in the number of hospital outpatients.

They will create ‘specialist centres’ at different hospitals to deal with the likes of complex orthopaedic (broken bones), lung, vascular, heart, urology, abdominal surgery, etc. At the moment all of these can be done at each of the three hospitals, ‘specialist centres’ will be created by removing these capabilities from two of the hospitals, making the remaining one the only one able to carry out the procedures and therefore, by default, a ‘specialist centre’.

The STP then propose to transport seriously ill patients in need of these treatments, significant distances across Essex’s highly congested roads to reach the care they need. How are they going to transport these patients? Well, that’s not entirely clear. The STP have a vague idea about a new fleet of dedicated ambulances in which the patients will be accompanied by specialist nurses, doctors or consultants, depending on the level of care they need. Figures on how many patients this will affect seem unclear with estimates ranging from between 15 – 25 every day – that’s a lot of journeys, especially when you consider the medical staff also need to return to their bases.

With an ambulance service already failing to fill its many vacancies and respond to even life threatening calls within an acceptable timeframe, it begs the question; where are these paramedics coming from, to say nothing of the extra medical staff needed to attend these patients in transit? As with most of the STP’s answer, they’re a combination of hazy outlines mixed with optimistic assumptions. When the STP panel were asked where the East of England Ambulance Service representative was, there were some awkward and embarrassed mumbles before saying: “we’ll look into it.” There are mass Doctor and nurse vacancies already so we are unsure where they will get these specialist transfer clinicians from in an already overstretched workforce.

Additionally the STP are saying that transport will be provided for outpatients and visitors having to travel further afield, possibly in the form of an interlinking bus service. Plans are again currently at the ‘back of a cigarette packet’ stage.

The jewel in the STP’s crown is the Hyper Acute Stroke Unit (HASU) planed for Basildon. The idea here is for each of the three hospitals to have 24/7 MRI facilities along with specialist trained doctors and nurses. Once patients have been assessed at their local hospital, those in need will be transferred the HASU. This plan has been developed in conjunction with local consultants and, if fully funded and implemented properly, will be a major step forward for improved patient care and outcomes. By ‘implemented properly’ we heard from Dr.Guyler that the gold standard for early stroke intervention at each site is a 24/7 MRI scanning service plus a 24/7 specialist stroke Dr and nurse to diagnose and commence treatment prior to onward transfer to the HASU. A regional Thrombectomy service is also required according to Dr.Guyler. We heard last night that it will be down to specialist commissioners to fund this after the proposals have been accepted, which seemed to cast some doubt over whether this was a guaranteed move. The STP WOULD NOT commit to this gold standard despite heavy public pressure being applied – see our video!

They STP team claimed the lives will give current staff great opportunities and will attract new recruits yet there has been no formal staff survey conducted – yet again utter spin.

The atmosphere at last night’s event was certainly tense. The public aren’t buying the spin put out by the STP. At the root of their plans is a need to cut in excess of £500 million from the projected spending on the NHS in our area by 2021. Tempers flared as audience members failed to get straight answers from the STP panel that included Dr Celia Skinner – Chief Medical Officer for the three hospitals, Dr Ronan Fenton – Joint Medical Director of the STP and Tom Abell – Deputy CEO & Chief Transformation Officer of the three hospital trusts. There is no way that in the two hours allotted to last night’s event could the STP come anywhere close to answering all the questions people wanted to put. This is one of 18 events planned during the public consultation across mid and south Essex with an extra event now scheduled in Southend at the same venue on the 7th March – two days before the consultation ends.

If the STP really are listening to the people of Essex, they will go away, completely rethink their vague, delusory plans and come back with something that is actually based on clinical evidence and is fit to deliver top quality health care, locally, that patients deserve. Their proposals aren’t currently even fit for consultation! How can the public respond to consultation plans which have no substance and the linchpin of service centralisation is on a transfer service that they have provided absolutely no data about.

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