Heatherwood campaigners will not back down as consultation endsBy Jennie Slevin
February 06, 2013
As the public consultation about the future of Heatherwood Hospital draws to a close, campaigners opposing the proposals say they will not back down.
Save Heatherwood Hospital members who disagree with NHS Berkshire’s plans to close services at the Ascot hospital led a discussion about what they will do now their chance to speak is over.
During the meeting on Monday, Terry Pearce, chairman of Defend Our Community Services said: “One of the phrases I’ve heard a couple of times is, ‘this is not a referendum’.
“It’s their way of saying they don’t care what we have got to say, they’re not interested if we’re upset.
“But we don’t want these changes, we want to maintain the services we’ve got at Heatherwood.”
He added: “I’m pretty sure the result of this consultation will have a very large public opinion against the proposals but, if it’s not taken into account, then this cannot be the end of it.”
Thursday, January 31 was the last day people were able to respond to the NHS Shaping the Future of Health Care in East Berkshire consultation and share their concerns with Berkshire East’s Primary Care Trust (PCT).
But Save Heatherwood Hospital members have been so concerned their voices will not be heard, they have produced their own consultation which they presented to Charles Waddicor, NHS Berkshire chief executive on Wednesday, January 30.
Charles Waddicor, NHS Berkshire chief executive, said: “A consultation, however important to the final decision, is not a referendum.
“It informs the decision-making, but is not the only element taken into account.
“The NHS Berkshire Board will make the final decision by looking at the feedback received during the consultation against the criteria which is set out in the consultation document.
“This includes quality, patient choice, clinical engagement, financial viability, patient access and patient experience.
“The feedback we are receiving in the consultation is very valuable in helping us make judgements against this criteria.
“We are most interested in the reasons people are for or against specific proposals, not just the number of responses received.”
Over the last three and a half months the PCT has held seven consultation events which have been attended by more than 300 people.
The public were given the chance to quiz NHS bosses and staff about the proposals which include keeping the hospital open, offering high-quality planned surgery but closing other services including the stroke rehabilitation ward to offer care in patient’s homes, moving the minor injuries unit to Brants Bridge and permanently closing the Ascot Birth Centre.
Spike Humphrey, from the Ascot Community Action Group, said: “I think this has been one of the worst consultations you can have.
“It’s quite clear the PCT have already decided what they want to do – they’re not really giving us a choice.”
Mr Waddicor assured all public responses will be reviewed by an independent organisation, before a final decision.
He said: “We are grateful to everyone who has contributed to the consultation.
“The final recommendations will reflect the feedback we have received from the hundreds of people who took part in our events and who took the time to complete a feedback questionnaire.”
For more information about the proposals call (0118) 982 2709, email STFteam@berkshire.nhs.uk or go to www.berkshire.nhs.uk/shapingthefuture.