County Councillor Adam Carew, who represents Whitehill, Bordon and Lindford on the County Council Health and Social Care Committee and the Whitehill & Bordon Health and Care Stakeholder Board, otherwise known as the Chase Hospital Steering Group, has again criticised the uncertainty created by the NHS regarding crucial health services for our town.
Adam told a recent County Council meeting that if proposed cuts went ahead they “ …could constitute a further blow to Chase Hospital and our local community. They are premature with our town doubling in size over coming years. We are one the UK’s ‘healthy new towns’ and every service cut at Chase Hospital undermines its future viability. Once these services are lost it will be difficult getting them back. “ Adam said that Chase Hospital has always been treated as the poor relation to Petersfield and Alton Hospitals and despite assurances from the NHS that the Chase will not close until a new, state of art Health Hub can be built, the withdrawal of NHS services by Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust will only serve to fuel local rumours that Chase Hospital could close.
Until plans for a new state of the art health campus are unveiled the only hope is that we can commission these services from other providers such as Royal Surrey. To date this has only been partially successful, with some services being provided instead at local GP Surgeries, these at least will not be lost to our town, but it remains likely that other services like Maxillo Facial and even Paediatrics could be lost. It seems that Ophthalmology will be provided by Royal Surrey from a local GP practice and Physiotherapy continues to operate from the Chase. There is a question about the X-Ray, and this is not helped by the fact it’s an old machine, and there is a national shortage of Radiographers. ENT, Audiology, Podiatry and Phlebotomy (blood tests).
The Chase is operating at a fraction of its capacity. Yet services are being centralised at acute hospitals such as North Hants in Basingstoke. One factor in this seems to be the cost of renting space at the Chase. Adam and others including Conservative Town Council leader, Mark Davison believe costs are set nationally by NHS Property Services. During the County stakeholder meeting members asked whether patients were missing consultants appointments. This, used by the NHS in the past to justify withdrawing services, Adam says is not the case. Our town is above the national average in attendance rates. Not so long ago, says Adam “… I had the Chase Charter drawn up… which signs up all parties to doing their very best to ensure that all services… from the Chase are not lost to the town and that services are commissioned based on our local needs as determined in our Health Needs Assessment.”
It is vital that any decisions about our local health provision take our lack of public transport into account. It is not always possible for patients from Whitehill and Bordon to travel out of the area. From a recent survey, where travelling, patients prefer the Royal Surrey as it’s easier to get to, although our town’s 13 bus to Alton now goes to Basingstoke. But from there, getting to North Hants Hospital is not as easy as reaching the Royal Surrey. Whitehill and Bordon already has issues in terms of accessibility. The committee heard that our public transport services are currently one of the most challenging in Hampshire. It is extremely difficult for patients to access health services outside the town if they have no car. The Hospital Car service is already very busy and passenger transport is yet again under review following further cuts in funding.
Adam questioned the survey, recognising the questions and responses were useful but the sample only focused on a proportion of current users of the Chase, not including those who might the Chase if they could, the County Committee wanted to hear a response from the local GP practices that serve our town, agreeing with Adam that the proposed cuts were a major departure from agreements and the NHS should review this. County will review responses in November.