CAMPAIGNERS have called upon Prime Minister David Cameron to intervene immediately at Stafford Hospital, where they say "morale is at an all time low".
They say "a very real risk" exists of services becoming unsustainable - posing a threat to patient safety.
Stafford's MP Jeremy Lefroy this week delivered the plea to Downing Street written by members of Support Stafford Hospital, along with his own additional letter, asking that the PM takes action.
The letter comes in the wake of healthcare regulator Monitor rubber-stamping plans by administrators that would see Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust dissolved, Stafford Hospital taken over by University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UHNS) and a raft of acute services stripped from the county town.
It states: "Extension to the trust special administrators' (TSA) timeline and the unremitting negative press about Stafford Hospital have created a deep sense of uncertainty about the hospital's future.
"Morale is at an all-time low and our hospital is finding it increasingly difficult to retain or recruit vital front line staff. There is a very real risk that existing services will become clinically unsustainable and pose a threat to patient safety.
"Our community is facing the unacceptable prospect of existing services being downgraded or withdrawn. Such a scenario will only fuel the reputational damage to our hospital and its pernicious consequences. We urge you to intervene immediately to help prevent further erosion to our hospital's services and start the process of rebuilding confidence."
The letter goes on to propose creating a unified Stafford Hospital and UHNS transitional board fully representative of both communities and that the board make a commitment to retaining the services the community has identified as vital. "We strongly believe that the greater opportunity is for an innovative and radical solution that will transform the way local health and social care services are provided. We believe the TSA has failed to grasp this unique opportunity."
The letter is reproduced in full below;
OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER FROM THE SUPPORT STAFFORD HOSPITAL (SSH) GROUP
DEAR MR CAMERON,
Our group was set up to represent the community served by Stafford Hospital and it is in this capacity that we are writing to you.
The Trust Special Administrator (TSA) recently concluded a review of Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust (MSFT), and its recommendations are currently being considered by the Secretary of State for Health.
The overriding recommendations is that MSFT be dissolved and that this should involve Stafford Hospital, in effect, being merged with University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UHNS).
We agree with this recommendation.
However, extensions to the TSA timeline and the unremitting negative press about Stafford Hospital, have created a deep sense of uncertainty about the hospital’s future amongst both the community, and crucially, the hospital staff.
Morale is at an all time low and our hospital is finding it increasingly difficult to retain or recruit vital front line staff. There is a very real risk that existing services being downgraded or withdrawn, not in months but weeks. Such a scenario will only serve to fuel the reputational damage to our hospital and its pernicious consequences.
We urge you to intervene immediately to help prevent further erosion to our hospital’s services and start the process of rebuilding confidence.
Specifically, we would propose the immediate creation of a transitional Trust Board that unifies the strategic governance of both UHNS and Stafford Hospitals. The Executive and Non-Executive Directors composition of such a Board should fully represent and reflect the specific needs of the communities served by each hospital.
We would hope that the transitional Board would quickly make a public commitment to retain those services at Stafford Hospital that out community has clearly identified as vital, until such time that the merged organisation is fully established and has determined a strategic service model that is clinically and financially sustainable in the long term.
Although the TSA has gone some way to addressing these vital service needs, it has failed to satisfy the communities’ demand for:
• A consultant-led obstetrics and maternity service,
• A 24/7 consultant-led children’s service, including in-patients and a Paediatric Assessment Unit,
• A fully resourced Level 3 critical care facility
• The reinstatement of a 24/7 A&E service.
We believe the creative merging of UHNS and Stafford Hospitals would go a long way to addressing the future health and care needs of the two communities and provide an opportunity to achieve significant value for money and productivity gains.
Crucially, the merger should not be (or be perceived as), a takeover of Stafford Hospital by the larger UHNS, but an amalgamation of equals where both organisations, and communities, benefit.
However, we strongly believe that the greater opportunity is for an innovative and radical solution that will transform the way local health and social care services are provided. One that provides a ‘blueprint’ for achieving seamless and integrated healthcare and acts as an exemplar for other communities facing similar challenges.
We believe the TSA has failed to grasp this unique opportunity.
It would be a fitting tribute to our community and Stafford Hospital, whose staff and management have transformed it into one of the top performing acute hospitals in the country, to be recognised as at the cutting edge of locally integrated health care provision.
Let us not forget the 50,000 who marched for the retention of acute services at Stafford Hospital.
SUPPORT STAFFORD HOSPITAL GROUP
Cllr. Mike Heenan
Cllr. Jack Kemp
Cllr. Barry Stamp
Cllr. Anne Edgeller
Cllr. Rowan Draper
Cllr. Trish Rowlands