10th December 2006
Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt MP,
Secretary of State for Health,
Department of Health,
Dear Mrs Hewitt
In the matter of: The Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford
I am writing to request your urgent attention to a very serious matter that is threatening healthcare in our area.
I understand that the Royal Surrey County Hospital (RSCH) is being threatened by the (Strategic Health Authority) SHA and Primary Care Trust (PCT) with either partial or total closure.
I further understand that a major part of the reason for this is the funding imbalance between the South (where the majority of taxation is raised) and the North (where the majority of taxation is spent). This imbalance, it appears, is derived from a flawed logic in terms of the mortality rates in the respective parts of the country.
In the South of England, relative to the North, there is a greater proportion of elderly residents who (on a per capita basis) have a greater call on the health services than the balance of the population.
Despite this imbalance (and you can derive the figures yourself by reference to the 2001 census) more funding is diverted to the North.
Notwithstanding the fact that, if the funding were rebalanced on a per capita basis, there would be no deficit in our area, I have now heard several accounts of how patients are being diverted from the RSCH to surrounding hospitals. There can only be two reasons for this:
a) the RSCH is too busy and, as a consequence, the patient would receive care more quickly at another hospital; or
b) the PCT is seeking to manipulate the data so that the RSCH can appear to be less busy than it would otherwise be.
In each of these instances, the implication is that the RSCH (which has one of the lowest patient mortality rates in the country) should not see any reduction to its A&E department.
Furthermore, I have sought preliminary advice and believe that the manipulation of information (if it is found to be the case) would make any decision in favour of closure or partial closure open to legal challenge as the selected officers making the decision would have acted ultra vires (outside the scope of their powers).
Irrespective of this legal point, I assure you that I propose to challenge any such decision in the most forthright and powerful way possible – including an examination of the funding anomalies introduced by your government, which on face value at least, show a striking similarity to the historic Dame Shirley Porter case at Westminster Council.
Having found myself in the RSCH for a few days recently, I know only too well how busy it is and how impractical it would be to assume it could close and its case-load be transferred to other surrounding hospitals.
There has been heavy investment in the provision of medical training courses in Guildford and the RSCH andUniversityofSurreyhave added substantially to each other’s status and well-being. Closure of the A&E department would lead to a catastrophic impact on this highly valuable mutual benefit.
The oncology treatment at the RSCH has become a major success and relies for that continuing success upon the presence of the A&E and other critical care units at the hospital.
I am also very much aware of the critical period between accident or trauma (eg. heart attack) and medical treatment – to the extent that minor traffic delays can mean the difference between life and death. The thought that large parts of the rural county, which are already a substantial distance from the RSCH, will be an hour away from the next nearest hospital beggars belief and leaves open the potential for claims by grieving family of corporate homicide.
The more I consider this matter, the more inappropriate the proposed potential course of action seems to be.
It is not too late to stop this nonsense. Failure to do so will lead to legal action and, according to lawyers whom I have briefly consulted, this may very well be against individuals in the context of their fiduciary duties as well as by way of injunctions.
Please would you personally move to ensure that the RSCH is not placed at risk and that adequate funding is made available to our area on an equitable basis in the same way as it is available to other regions of theUK.
Julian D S Lyon