STAFFORD councillors unanimously backed a scathing report of plans to downgrade Stafford Hospital and vowed to write to the Secretary of State for Health to voice concerns over the ‘flawed’ process.
Members of the borough council packed the room for a special meeting of the health scrutiny committee to discuss the report by healthcare experts Durrow - which slams proposals to downgrade Stafford Hospital.
Eleven members of the committee were joined by 17 other councillors anxious to voice their concerns over administrators plans and share their dissatisfaction with the process.
Council leader Mike Heenan said he had come to the committee to hear if members felt the Durrow Report would make an appropriate basis for the council’s formal response to the consultation.
“We have been living and breathing this issue for the last six months and I think some times you need to get a sense of detachment from it to see the point.”
Councillor Heenan praised the report saying it brought ‘new angles’ to the argument against the administrator’s plans.
“This is the first time this process has ever been done,” he said. “And it concerns me that no ends have been tied up regarding the finances and no ends have been tied up as far as the providers are concerned. There have been talks with UHNS, Walsall, Wolverhampton and other providers but nothing has been decided.
“It’s a very difficult situation,” he said. “But I feel that the process itself is flawed. It’s trying to apply the process you use when you liquidate a company to a hospital – but a hospital is not a company.
“A hospital is a public service and it’s about providing care for people in its community.
“I don’t believe that this process is the right way to do that.”
Councillor Heenan said the people of Stafford had shown how they felt when tens of thousands of them marched in protest at the plans in April.
He suggested the council resolved to write to the Secretary of State for health to express their concerns about the process.
He also recommended asking Durrow to add a number of items to the report before it was brought before the full council on Tuesday September 24, including a passage relaying the concerns of members that risk assessments were not carried out by the administrators over their recommendations.
“I do think that should be put in and I do think the risk variables need to be considered,” he said. “I think it is a deficiency which needs to be addressed.
Councillor Heenan also expressed concerns over the work of the independent Health equalities impact assessment group (HEIA), set up by the administrators to look for inequalities created by the plans.
“We know that there is this group reporting on the side but it doesn’t report back until after the consultation has finished,” he said. “How can we view objectively what that group has done if that’s the case?”
“We should reserve the right to comment on the health inequalities assessment.”
He said a number of constituents had contacted him to say they were keen to voice their concerns over the proposals but had struggled to fill out the feedback form.
“The problem with that form is that I think you need a degree in form filling to be able to complete it,” he said.
Councillor Trish Rowlands confirmed that members of the public did not have to complete the formal consultation form and could choose instead to write or email the administrators and express their views.
The committee voted unanimously to endorse the report which must now be agreed by full council before forming the basis of the council’s response to the consultation.
They also asked Durrow to add three sections to the report, expressing concerns the administrators had not conducted risk assessments, that the report of the independent health equalities impact assessment group would not be available until after the consultation and that the number of yearly average births reported by the administrators differed significantly to figures obtained by the council.