East Coast health review: Fears of a 'drip, drip, drip' approach to services being removed from Scarborough

Health chiefs have refused to rule out more changes to which services are provided at Scarborough Hospital following concerns raised by the borough’s county councillors.

By Carl Gavaghan, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Wednesday, 20th January 2021, 3:37 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th January 2021, 3:39 pm

Bosses from the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust were quizzed by members of the North Yorkshire County Council Scarborough Area Committee today as part of its ongoing East Coast Review into health services.

In recent years services including elements of Urology, Oncology and Stroke have been transferred from Scarborough to other hospitals, including York and Hull.

Councillors said there had been a great deal of public concern at these moves and said the trust had not communicated enough information to residents about changes.

Scarborough Hospital

In response, councillors heard that while no services were being “targeted” there was always an “ongoing” review into the safest way to provide them.

Cllr Liz Colling told the meeting there was a great deal of worry about services leaving the town.

She said: “The public see a salami slicing of their services and you can understand the emotion around that but there is an absence around the overarching narrative of the role the hospital plays in the wider network.”

Simon Cox, Executive Programme Director for the East Coast Service Review, pictured at one of the public meetings at the Royal Hotel in October 2018.

Cllr David Chance said he was worried there would be a “drip, drip, drip” approach to the removal of services from Scarborough.

He added: “I don’t have a problem with acute services being moved if there is a clinical reason to do it, what I have a problem with though in this case that it takes an hour to get from Whitby or Scarborough to York and it takes 45 minutes to James Cook [in Middlesbrough].

“The more services that are removed the worse it will get for us."

Since last May all suspected stroke patients have been taken to the nearest hyper-acute stroke unit, normally York, without first going to Scarborough Hospital as had previously been the case.

The meeting also heard that around three Urology patients a week were also now sent from Scarborough to York and in Oncology all tumour patients are now seen in Hull, though chemotherapy and follow-up outpatients appointments both still take place in the town.

The reason for these change was down to “staffing challenges”, councillors heard.

In response to the councillors’ concerns, Simon Cox, Executive Programme Director for the East Coast Service Review, said that there was a commitment to provide an acute hospital in the town.

He said: “There is no list of services we have identified to move from Scarborough to York.

"There will be an ongoing review of all services provided in Scarborough and in York to be fair, into what the best place to provide them is and how they are provided and that may mean in some cases they are not provided in Scarborough.”

The committee heard that there had been a long-standing issue with regards to attracting staff to work in Scarborough which had led to some of the changes.

Mr Cox added: “We are committed towards providing an acute hospital in Scarborough with as many services as we can safely provide there but there will be other services that we will have to look at whether that’s the best model.”

Mr Cox agreed that the trust had to improve its communication with the public about the situation on the East Coast and said that the ways treatments were delivered across the country were changing.

He pointed to an example of how almost all of diabetic medicine used to be carried out in hospitals, now 95% is done by GPs.

He added: “We will see changes to the way things are delivered and it won’t be a drip, drip, drip, it will be an evolutionary process but we probably do need to do better at communicating what is going on.”

The chief executive of the York Trust, Simon Morritt, also denied there was a plan to remove certain services.

He said: “There are no services being targeted in Scarborough, what we have to do is make sure that we are best able to deliver the safest and highest quality service possible to the population of the East Coast.”

The meeting also heard that the plans for a £47 million scheme to provide a new Accident and Emergency department and Intensive Care Unit at Scarborough Hospital were moving forwards.