Campaigners set for legal battle over proposals for community health changes in North Staffordshire

Ian Syme and Janet Smallwood of the North Staffs Pensioners Convention

Campaigners are looking to make a legal challenge over changes to community health services in North Staffordshire.

NHS Care for All fighting proposals that could halve the number of beds at community hospitals across North Staffordshire.

The group is a coalition made up of the North Staffs Pensioners’ Convention, Save Leek Hospital and Save Bradwell Hospital campaigns, local campaigning group Healthwatch, the local branch of the Green Party, representatives of trade unions, local councillors of all political persuasions and local MPs.

A consultation is currently taking place on the future of health services in North Staffordshire.

The group say the proposals, which could see the number of rehabilitation beds reduced from 264 to 132 and some hospital sites mothballed, would “put vulnerable people of all ages at risk” and would damage the NHS.

They have now launched a crowdfunding page which will allow lawyers to advise whether there are grounds to bring a judicial review challenging the legality of the decision. 

Oliver Carter, a specialist public law and human rights lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the  North Staffordshire Pensioners Convention said: “The announcement has caused a great deal of concern to many residents in the area who believe that the decision will harm NHS services.

“Those opposed to the decision would like to work with the clinical commissioning groups (CCG) to find a solution but so far have been left frustrated by the response.  

“Campaigners feel they have no alternative but to start the legal process and so have asked Irwin Mitchell to investigate the legality of the decision and the consultation process. 

“We would urge the clinical commissioning groups to enter into talks with campaigners to find a solution agreeable to all parties.” 

The CCGs are currently exploring a number of options but their preferred choice is to close beds at Leek, Longton, Cheadle and Bradwell hospitals and retain 77 beds at Haywood Hospital.

Other beds would be held at care homes and community care “hubs” would be set up to deliver services such as physiotherapy and palliative care. 

A spokesman for North Staffordshire Pensioners Convention added: “The plans will put vulnerable people of all ages at risk and damage the NHS as a whole.

"Rehabilitation beds are essential for so many people and losing them will have a major impact on care in the area. We just need to look at the queues at the A&E departments to see the knock on effect of what will happen.

“Our local community hospital teams provide great care and help thousands of people return home safely. 

“All of the proposals are based around the assumption that there needs to be 132 beds. However, we feel that the current consultation cannot be fair as everything is based on this arbitrary figure.

“All through this process we feel that that the CCGs have failed to provide convincing evidence that they have put quality care services in place in the community.

"They have ignored all the representations put to them by local communities throughout this process and refused to compromise in any way.

“Because of this we feel we have little option but to investigate a legal challenge.”

A spokesperson for Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire CCGs said: "The CCG’s can confirm receipt of a letter from solicitors representing North Staffordshire Pensioners Convention and a local patient. We shall be replying to this shortly.

“Since we began developing our proposals and plans for consultation, we have undergone a rigorous scrutiny and assurance process including from the leading independent experts on best practice in public consultations.”

More information on the crowdfunding campaign can be found here: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/save-our-community-hospital-beds/

For more on the CCGs’ proposals visit: https://www.healthservicesnorthstaffs.nhs.uk/health-services-north-staffs/1461-pre-consultation-business-case-main-body-final/file

More from Local