Merger of hospital trusts ‘could undermine resort’s economy’

CAMPAIGNERS have claimed that a merger of hospital services between York and Scarborough could undermine the seaside town’s economy and put healthcare in jeopardy.

Proposals have been unveiled which would see York Hospital chiefs take over the management of the troubled NHS trust which runs hospitals in Scarborough and Bridlington, affecting the services for 250,000 people.

While hospital directors have maintained that the partnership will actually target services more effectively, health watchdogs have voiced concerns that the move will erode Scarborough’s economy with major redundancies and a wave of departures of senior consultants.

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The resort is due to see major housebuilding programmes at both Scalby and Middle Deepdale with as many as 1,800 homes built across the two multi-million- pound developments, prompting fears that the merger would leave Scarborough Hospital unable to cope with the influx of new residents.

The town is also a prime retirement location, raising further concerns that elderly residents who often need hospital treatment will be put off from moving to Scarborough – further undermining the resort’s economy.

The Scarborough branch of the North Yorkshire Local Improvement Network (LINk), which is funded by the Department of Health to represent the public in the county, has claimed not enough information has been provided about the proposals.

The Scarborough branch of the North Yorkshire LINk’s chairman, Leo McGrory, also voiced reservations about how feasible it would be to transport patients to York along the notoriously congested stretch of the A64.

He added: “It seems that finance is primary and healthcare is secondary. This merger could happen in a little over a year, but we are simply not being told enough information about what could happen.

“But there are very real fears that Scarborough’s economy could suffer if its hospital becomes nothing more than a satellite to York.

“I do understand that things cannot continue as they are, but any merger needs to be discussed in depth.

“At the moment that simply can’t happen because we do not know enough detail.”

The merger has been proposed as there is little prospect of the Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Healthcare NHS Trust achieving elite foundation status.

The Government has unveiled a radical shake-up of the NHS that will mean all trusts have to achieve the enhanced status by 2013.

But doubts have surfaced about the Scarborough trust’s ability to secure clinically and financially sustainable services, and talks are under way for a formal merger.

Health chiefs have stressed the overhaul would be designed specifically around patients’ needs and were adamant that Scarborough’s own hospital services would not be abandoned completely as York would be unable to cope with the dramatic increase in demand.

The chief executive of York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Patrick Crowley, said: “We believe the partnership would bring benefits for both staff and patients, strengthening clinical services, and ensuring a long-term future for hospitals in Scarborough and the surrounding districts.

“This would also benefit people in York and the surrounding areas. By working together, as a larger organisation, we can reduce unplanned pressure on York Hospital as well as improving services right across the patch.”

Mr Crowley claimed the creation of a larger organisation would increase job prospects and help with the recruitment of “high calibre staff”.

Two extra ear, nose and throat consultants are being recruited to the York team as part of the joint alliance, while health services on the coast have been bolstered with the launch of a mobile eye clinic.