15 May 2008
By Simon Bristow Yorkshire Post
THE controversial shake-up of services planned at Bridlington Hospital has been referred to an independent review panel.
The Department of Health confirmed yesterday that proposals to transfer the cardiac monitoring unit and acute medical services from Bridlington to Scarborough Hospital will now be considered by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP).
l, set up in 2003 to advise the Health Secretary on contested proposals for change in the health service, is already reviewing a scheme to alter the way maternity services are delivered by Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs both hospitals.
The chairman of North Yorkshire County Council's health scrutiny committee, John Blackie, and his counterpart at East Riding Council, had originally referred the matter to Education Secretary Alan Johnson.
Coun Blackie said: "I am delighted that the decision will be fully and properly reviewed, particularly as there has been so much concern surrounding Bridlington Community Hospital.
"One by one, services are being taken out of the hospital and eventually you won't be able to call it a hospital any more. It won't be financially viable and it will close. I think this decision was taken for the wrong reasons and has caused great anxiety. Now people will be able to put that to the panel.
"The panel are very keen to hear from all people who feel they have a contribution to make. They hold informal, personal hearings and I'm sure contributions will be welcome."
The move has been welcomed by campaigners.
The chairman of the Save Bridlington Hospital Campaign Action Group, Mick Pilling, said the review would tie in well with a protest march he is organising in the resort on July 26.
He said: "The panel will sit in July so therefore our march will attract national publicity and will go towards the panel's work on what the future holds. I'm pleased because I will be giving evidence to the panel."
The trust said it had every confidence in the review process.
A spokeswoman said: "The panel will invite everyone in the area to comment on the proposed changes, so the people of Bridlington can be confident that the final decisions will be based on independent advice that has patients' best interests as its prime consideration."
Coun Blackie said access to the heart unit was highly valued by residents in the area.
He said: "The cardiac monitoring unit is held in very high esteem because it allows people who think they have had a heart attack, the number one killer, to have their heart checked and monitored. If the unit wasn't there they will have to travel at least 20 miles to Scarborough."
The trust came in for fierce criticism this week when it emerged only one nurse had been left to cover an entire ward at Bridlington over a bank holiday weekend.
The union Unite said it was considering reporting the trust to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the professional standards body for nursing, and called it "unsafe practice".
The trust later said in a statement the shortage was due to a nurse reporting sick "at very short notice" and that the nurse left on the ward had only been in sole charge for a matter of hours.
The Yorkshire Ambulance Service has previously said it believes it would cost £1m to provide extra cover for Bridlington if the services are lost – exactly half the amount the cash-strapped trust is hoping to save.