Sep 16 2011 by Lisa Boyle, Ayrshire Post (main ed)
PLANS to close an integral part of Ayr Hospital’s accident and emergency department have been revealed.
And the proposal to shut down the orthopaedic trauma unit has sparked real fears that it could be the beginning of the end for A&E at Ayr.
But medics, politicians and the public have vowed not to let the critical care facility close by stealth.
The controversial plans were unveiled to senior managers at a presentation by health chiefs this week.
They are vowing to push forward with the plan as soon as possible “to avoid uncertainty.”
It’s claimed closing the orthopaedic trauma unit and shifting it to Crosshouse will help plug a £14 million financial black hole across the health service.
But a senior consultant surgeon insists that the plan does not make good financial sense and will undermine the future of the accident and emergency service at Ayr.
He said: “The proposal is to move all orthopaedic trauma from Ayr to Crosshouse. This will mean the closure of an entire 22 bed ward with just 12 additional beds created at Crosshouse.
“There is no benefit to the service with this proposal. And it is my view that it has been ill conceived and that there are no savings either. In fact I believe that it will end up costing more in the long run.”
The doctor explained that demand from other departments will mean that existing operating theatres may be quieter at Ayr, but will have to remain open and fully staffed.
However, additional resources will have to be put into making theatres available for the extra workload that the centralisation of orthopaedic trauma will create at Crosshouse.
He added: “I believe that if orthopaedic surgery moves to Crosshouse then accident and emergency will be under serious threat.”
Ayr MSP John Scott fought tirelessly to have A&E saved when it was earmarked for closure in 2005.
After an overwhelmingly ferocious campaign by the public, the unit was eventually saved when the SNP government came into power at Holyrood.
The MSP has warned health chiefs he will be first in line to spearhead a similar campaign if need be.
He said: “This proposal appears to be yet another attempt to downgrade and ultimately destroy A&E services at Ayr Hospital.
“Having vowed to fight as long as there is breath in my body to maintain A&E services at Ayr Hospital, of which orthopaedic trauma is an integral and essential part, I am utterly opposed to the proposal to move trauma services from Ayr to Crosshouse.”
He added: “While I understand that cost savings have to be made, this proposal is not a cost effective or practical way of making such savings.
“NHS Ayrshire and Arran must change their view on this damaging and potentially life-threatening proposal.”
The Ayrshire community rallied together in 2005 in a bid to force health chiefs into a u-turn over their plans to close A&E.
Archie Monkhouse, secretary of the association of South Ayrshire Community Councils, and David Kiltie, chairman of Maybole Community Council were just two of those at the helm.
Archie said: “Whatever their plans are they can rest assured that they will be scrutinised and thoroughly investigated by the public and if there is anything untoward going on then the proposals will be fought vigorously.
“It was my fear when we were successful in our campaign some years ago that A&E would end up being closed bit by bit in the future.
“The campaign last time saw 50,000 people sign petitions and 5000 people march in the streets. But if need be, another campaign will be fought fiercer and harder.”
David added: “I totally oppose anything that could lead to the closure of A&E at Ayr. If need be we will once again mobilise all local opinion.”
In a document released to NHS staff, health chiefs explain: “Over the next two years our funding (in orthopaedic trauma) will reduce by £1 million. We need to find £500,000 of disinvestment in each of the next two years.
“In recent years we have talked about proposals to provide trauma services from one site. The clinical evidence, guidelines and research recommend one trauma unit for populations of 500,000, and point to numerous benefits.
“We are going to look to develop a centre of excellence for inpatient trauma services at Crosshouse Hospital. This would mean a review of bed numbers and theatre provision at both Ayr and Crosshouse Hospitals.”
A spokesperson for the health board said: “NHS Ayrshire and Arran would like to reassure local communities that we remain committed to maintaining full accident and emergency services at both Ayr and Crosshouse Hospitals.
“We provided this assurance to the people of Ayrshire and Arran and the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing in February 2008 and we continue to provide this assurance.
“NHS Ayrshire and Arran regularly and rigorously review the services we provide to ensure that they remain of the highest quality. Indeed, as recently as August 23, 2011, we held a joint workshop to discuss delivering quality services in the current financial downturn. This involved clinicians, managers and representatives from the Public Partnership Fora and patient council. We affirmed at the start of this workshop that the continuation of A&E services at both sites is a given.
“Any proposals for service change resulting from this work would be subject to appropriate engagement with all local stakeholders, in line with national guidance.”