Thursday 21st November 2013

Following comments made by representative from Peninsula Community Health that a hospital would need 26 beds to be viable (later backtracked to perhaps 20 beds), it was evident that Cornwall's smaller community hospitals could well be at risk.

So to discover a leaflet published by Peninsula Community Health displaying a map which omitted three of the smallest hospitals was not unexpected, though surprising that the company would reveal its plans in this way! Andrew George MP contacted Steve Jenkin at PCH, and was told that “The omission of Poltair, Edward Hain, and indeed Fowey from the map, was an oversight and not anything people should read into”.

Later, a spokeswoman from PCH said “There's absolutely no connection between the map and where we're providing services". Our response? West Cornwall HealthWatch is concerned at the omission of three cherished community hospitals from this map. It is hard to believe that this was an accidental omission – if it was, then questions need to be asked about competence. Rather, I fear that the map inadvertently betrays a plan for the future, which will not include our smaller community hospitals, and which had until now not been made public.

If, as we have been told, hospitals need a minimum number of beds – perhaps 20 – to be viable, then quite a few of our hospitals are at risk. Certainly Edward Hain falls into this category, alongside Poltair (which as we know already faces a very bleak future). This would leave Penwith with no community hospital beds at all. We in West Cornwall HealthWatch are very clear that we lose such beds at our peril.

Community hospitals have been described as ‘jewels in the crown’, and their beds play an essential part in nursing care, assessment and rehabilitation. They need to be embedded in local communities, for equity of access, and their beds cannot simply be sacrificed to leave people at home, where we know that adequate community nursing care is by no means in place.

So we are not convinced by the reasons given by Peninsula Community Health for the map in their leaflet, and we will need much more believable reassurances that smaller community hospitals, such as Edward Hain, are not at risk, before our suspicions can be allayed.