Cutbacks to services at Scarborough Hospital have been well known for a while – to patients, staff and local MPs.
And now, Health Minister Matt Hancock is aware of them too.
In a meeting with the MPs for Scarborough, Filey and Bridlington, the Secretary of State heard all about the plight of residents who have to travel to York, sometimes in pain or physical discomfort, to receive services previously available at Scarborough.
The latest service axed – breast cancer outpatient – 665 patients with nowhere locally to turn to, and was described by the town’s MP as “the thin edge of the wedge”.
And it has also been revealed that the NHS Trust running Scarborough Hospital will no longer provide children and young people’s behavioural services.
MP Robert Goodwill told The Scarborough News that, during the meeting with Mr Hancock, he and his colleagues Kevin Hollinrake and Sir Greg Knight made the case for extra funding.
In order for this to be justified, MPs are asking for Scarborough and Bridlington hospitals to be recognised as “unavoidably small” hospitals, i.e. hospitals serving relatively small populations that, due to their remote locations, require a wide range of services to function.
Mr Goodwill explained: “There are about 10 ‘unavoidably small’ hospitals in the UK which, owing to their remote locations, cannot benefit from economies of scale and have difficulties in both staff recruitment and retention along with higher overall costs of travel. We have promised to support York Trust in making its business case for Scarborough Hospital to qualify.”
Once this is submitted, it will be up to the Minister to review it and make a ruling.
Mr Goodwill said that the Secretary of State “clearly understood our arguments that our constituents should expect to have access to a full range of health care services and our concerns that there has been a significant diminution in the provision of services, as well as continued uncertainty about the future of Scarborough Hospital”.
He added: “I think Mr Hancock was taken aback when Kevin Hollinrake told him how the daughter of one Filey constituent had to travel from her Harrogate home to collect her to take her to York Hospital, only to take her back to Filey again after the appointment.”
This month it has also been revealed that the NHS Trust running Scarborough Hospital will no longer provide children and young people’s behavioural services.
NHS Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), who have been engaged in the discussions with York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, have confirmed that the decision was taken in December and that, since then, the two bodies have been working together to identify alternative specialist mental health providers.
A parent whose children are currently supported by the service said the move leaves families “high and dry”.
The CCG insists that services will continue to be provided in Scarborough and that only a small number of children will be referred back to their GP to discuss future care options. The services which will continue to be accessed locally include children and young people’s autism and ADHD diagnostic assessments, as well as referrals for behavioural problems where there may also be health concerns to be addressed.
The CCG has also made clear that the majority of Community Paediatric and Children’s Therapy services provided by York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust are unaffected by the changes and will continue to be provided in Scarborough.
Dr Peter Billingsley, NHS Scarborough and Ryedale CCG Associate Chair, said: “The decision of our local Trust has given us an opportunity to bring forward plans for developing more specialist and tailored services for some of our most vulnerable children and their families, and we will continue to do this over the coming year in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council and others.
“Ultimately, our ambition is to reduce waiting times and speed up diagnosis so we can help more families in Scarborough and Ryedale.
“The Trust is working closely and very positively with the CCG and the new providers to minimise disruption and make sure all of the children who are on the caseload now, and who have been referred in more recently, will be transferred safely, and communications will be going out to all those families over the next couple of weeks.”