Exclusive: Shock as regional NHS set for huge shake-up

Hundreds of hospital beds face the axe
Hundreds of hospital beds face the axe
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Hundreds of hospital beds face being axed, forcing patients to travel miles for essential treatment in the biggest-ever shake-up of NHS care in the region, the Yorkshire Post can reveal today.

A series of leaked draft proposals reveal for the first time a “long list” of measures being considered by health chiefs running North Yorkshire’s debt-ridden NHS as they draw up controversial plans to make savings worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Radical options include closing up to half of hospital beds in the county and axing or radically re-shaping community hospitals and minor injury units.

Services at Scarborough’s hospital could be severely curtailed by downgrading the town’s maternity service and moving high-risk births to York, closing the town’s A&E unit at night and providing more emergency or unplanned treatment in York.

Landmark plans to reconfigure services to tackle a financial crisis which has beset the NHS in North Yorkshire for a decade were expected to be announced this month but health chiefs now say they will not be unveiled until January.

The scale of potential cuts was last night widely condemned.

Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill pledged to fight to retain services in Scarborough and called for extra NHS funding for the costs of treating an ageing population. “Most of these options are completely unacceptable and certainly in terms of A&E over my dead body,” he said. The A64 is notoriously difficult in winter and summer – the idea that you can blue light people from Scarborough to York is just not acceptable.

“Scarborough needs a district general hospital. The population swells many times in the summer season, we have an ageing population and, of course, the prospect of further housing development.”

Leo McGrory, chairman of Scarborough and Whitby LINk, which represents patients, said the proposals were “alarming” and came despite promises services would not be cut in the town after the merger of management at York and Scarborough hospitals.

“We were told Scarborough
would not be left with a community hospital,” he said. “It looks as if once again finance is coming before healthcare. I just hope we are not being sold down the river because the ultimate losers will be patients from Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale.”

Coun Jim Clark, chairman of North Yorkshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee, said he was shocked at the scale of upheaval envisaged. “These would be the biggest changes in North Yorkshire since the health service was founded and it is important that people are given the full details,” he said.

A report last year warned that unless radical action was taken, the financial situation in the NHS in North Yorkshire would become unsustainable with potentially “catastrophic” results.

Management consultants KPMG have been called in to draw up turnaround plans leading to the draft list of measures agreed in talks involving NHS managers, hospital bosses and GPs.

Chris Long, chief executive of NHS North Yorkshire and York, said the long list would be narrowed down based on priorities in order of quality, affordability and accessibility. Work had looked at how out-of-hospital care could be better used and how hospitals could change to develop more specialist centres of excellence and reduce reliance on beds.

The next stage was to assess suggestions against quality of outcomes, financial impact and ease of implementation. “This will allow us to develop a shortlist of potential and costed options which can then be the subject of full public consultation,” he added.

Options that might see services move

Changes for health services in North Yorkshire could include:

Reducing hospital beds by 30-50 per cent.

Downgrading maternity services in Scarborough and transferring high-risk births to York.

Closing A&E in Scarborough at night and moving care to York.

Ending emergency general surgery and inpatient paediatric care in Scarborough and providing it in York.

Changes to hospital care in Harrogate which could see services move to York or Leeds.

Closing minor injury units, reconfiguring community hospitals in Ripon and Whitby and shutting St Monica’s, Easingwold.