Jo Questions Health Chiefs over Gartnavel and Stobhill

Jo has put constituents’ concerns to the heads of NHS Greater Glasgow

Jo Swinson MP has challenged the heads of NHS Greater Glasgow over the decision not to provide accident and emergency services at Gartnavel hospital.

Jo met with Chief Executive Tom Divers and Chairman Sir John Arbuthnott on Tuesday, to discuss issues of concern to residents in East Dunbartonshire, with talks on the future of A&E at Gartnavel earmarked as a priority.

Following public concern in 2002 regarding health service changes, it was announced that plans for accident and emergency provision would be reviewed after 2 years. In October 2004 a review was set up, which concluded in February 2005 that there should only be two A&E services in Glasgow.

NHS Greater Glasgow plans to centralise these services at Glasgow’s Southern General and Royal Infirmary. Gartnavel is to have a minor injuries unit and will accept GP referrals, but will not house an A&E department.

After the meeting, Jo commented,

“Many constituents in Bearsden and Milngavie have told me they are uneasy about the closest A&E being at the Southern General. An A&E facility at Gartnavel would put many minds at rest, so I questioned the current proposal to centralise A&E at the Southern General without these services at Gartnavel.”

“I do not take a positive view of the proposal as it stands. NHS Greater Glasgow’s review of changes to the city’s A&E services from February of this year was not widely publicised. If health board chiefs are convinced that two A&E services are adequate, they need to be pro-active in making the case to the community.

“One issue of concern is over changes to the ambulance services. I am keen to learn exactly how ambulance services are being reconfigured to cope with serving fewer, centralised A&E departments, and I plan on raising this with the Regional General Manager of Ambulance Services in the near future.”

During the meeting, Jo also discussed the future of Stobhill hospital. Mr Divers revealed that although no acute in-patient facilities are to be retained at Stobhill, there are likely to be a small number of short stay overnight beds made available.

Jo commented, “Although I would still view the plans for reorganising Glasgow’s health services with caution, I do welcome the prospect of some overnight beds being kept at Stobhill.”

These beds would allow patients to stay overnight if complications were encountered following an operation, and other unusual circumstances. A report is expected by the end of the year on the possible inclusion of these beds at Stobhill

Along with many others locally, Jo believes Stobhill is a good location for rehabilitation beds, to allow patients to recover closer to home following operations. The Rehabilitation & Assessment Directorate has recently been established to coordinate patient recovery over the Greater Glasgow area, and Jo plans to meet with the Director in the near future to press for the provision of rehab beds at Stobhill.

At the meeting, Jo was critical of the lack of communication and consultation with the community over planned changes at Stobhill. A Community Engagement Team was established in 2004 to improve communication with the public, but it was admitted that NHS Greater Glasgow had recently been playing ‘catch-up’ to try and put adequate systems for consultation in place.

Jo commented,

“NHS Greater Glasgow has drawn up plans for the area’s health services, many of which are at an advanced stage.

“I pressed Mr Divers and Mr Arbuthnott for answers on the issues that are concerning my constituents, such as overnight and rehabilitation beds at Stobhill, travel to the Royal Infirmary, A&E service provision and hospital waiting times.

“Through follow-up meetings with various people in NHS Greater Glasgow, I will continue to represent the views of local people to ensure they are taken into account.”

Two further issues that Jo raised were the fight against MRSA and hospital waiting times. In both these areas, Mr Divers and Mr Arbuthnott claimed progress was being made.

Rates of MRSA are now in steady decline, due to a better understanding of the nature of the infection, leading to improved hygiene measures such as the use of alcohol hand gel close to patients in all wards. NHS Quality Improvement Scotland is investigating a programme of screening patients when they arrive at hospitals, while the NHS Greater Glasgow Infection Control Manual has been launched, containing information on hygiene and how to prevent the spread of infection.

It was claimed that progress is being made to reduce waiting times, with target of 26 weeks from receiving a GP referral to seeing a consultant to be reached by December this year, and a target of 18 weeks by December 2007. Where 26,000 patients were waiting for consultations in Sept 2004, the figure is now 8,000.

Jo commented, “The trends for infection rates and hospital waiting times need ongoing monitoring. That there are plans to reduce these over time is encouraging, however a patient who has contracted MRSA in hospital, or who faces a lengthy wait for an appointment with a consultation or an operation, will know only too well that there is always more that can be done to improve the situation.”

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