ONE of the tiniest villages in Huntingdonshire last week hosted by far the best attended meeting of the three-month consultation on the future of Hinchingbrooke Hospital. More than 50 people turned up at Hamerton Village Hall – village population 110 – to
ONE of the tiniest villages in Huntingdonshire last week hosted by far the best attended meeting of the three-month consultation on the future of Hinchingbrooke Hospital.
More than 50 people turned up at Hamerton Village Hall - village population 110 - to quiz Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust chief executive Chris Banks on the rescue proposals for the hospital. An earlier meeting in St Ives attracted just three members of the public.
The consultation ended yesterday (Tuesday) and the PCT is expected to take final decisions in late June.
After the Hamerton meeting, which attracted residents from across north-west Huntingdonshire, MP Shailesh Vara said he had pressed Mr Banks on the adequacy of the £2.5million-a-year extra that the PCT is spending on moving some hospital services into the community, the lack of capital investment in equipment and expanding GPs' surgeries to cope with the extra work, and the difficulty people in rural areas had in getting to medical facilities.
"There's a lot of concern among villagers in this part of the district because they feel isolated. People living in smaller villages have just the same medical needs as those in the towns, but they often have transport problems," Mr Vara said.
"There's little public transport and many people, particularly older people, don't have ready access to cars. The PCT needs to take that into account."
Mr Vara said the £2.5million promised by the trust to support the transfer of services to the community did not include capital investment in community health facilities or equipment. "That's a separate part of the PCT and the two don't seem to be talking to each other.
"But it was a very constructive meeting, and I hope Mr Banks and his colleagues will have taken note of what was said," Mr Vara told The Hunts Post.
Mr Banks promised that the PCT's final proposals would be influenced by the comments at the Hamerton and other meetings during the consultation, and it would be discussing them with the GPs' collective organisation Huntscomm.
"The £2.5 million identified for developing community services is predominantly for recurrent costs but, given the phased approach planned, there are opportunities for funding identified for 2007/08 to be used on a non-recurrent basis, for example to purchase equipment," he added.
"In addition, the PCT board agreed a capital investment of £270,000 in February 2007 for premises improvements for a range of GP practices in Huntingdonshire."
On accessibility of services Mr Banks explained: "We have taken very seriously concerns raised during the consultation process about accessibility of services in the community and have learnt lessons from pilot schemes that we have set up in the more rural areas of our patch.
"Our thinking is now along the lines of siting such services in market towns or on the hospital site itself but provided there by GPs or their staff. We have also committed to work with the county council which has a co-ordinating role for community transport - including the nine dial-a-ride and 51 volunteer car schemes in place - and the East of England Ambulance Service, which manages the ambulance car service on behalf of the local NHS - to maximise efficiencies and make best use of these schemes.
"For example, the proposed reduced level of outpatient attendance at the hospital would free up capacity in the ambulance car service for journeys to clinics in the community setting."
The PCT was expecting a flurry of late responses to the consultation on top of 70 written responses and face-to-face comments from 250 people during the course of the seven public meetings.
"Overall, the general feeling so far has been support for continuation of the majority of services on the hospital site and the shift of activity into the community but, understandably, some concerns about the scale of the shift and how this will be managed," he said.