Council leader launches a scathing attack on health bosses over threatened Leek Memorial Hospital closure

AN angry Sybil Ralphs MBE, leader of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, has issued a damning statement criticising health bosses, after attending the recent public meeting called over the future of the Leek Moorlands Hospital:

“IT is now patently obvious that the Leek Moorlands Hospital will close within the next few years.

The new system that the hospital is adopting, called Discharge to Assess (D2A), which, we are told cuts bed blocking and helps patients to get back to their own homes with their own care package, is already being implemented: this means that within weeks all the beds in the hospital will be gone.

I am not opposed to the principle of D2A; for some people it will be beneficial, but not for everyone. The present number of beds (Leek Memorial Hospital) stands at 36, which we are told are mainly occupied by patients from Stoke-on-Trent. In that case let’s get parochial and reduce the number of beds to a figure that accommodates just Staffordshire Moorlands patients. We have the highest number of people in the county living here in the Moorlands.

Furthermore, we are being told that the present hospital services will remain in Leek. Call me cynical but I fear that the present services will no longer be centralised in one location but dispersed among the Leek GPs, if they are prepared to take them on.

It has already been put to me that the hospital is an increasing liability; an ageing Victorian building which needs constant maintenance and repair work, the cost of which can no longer be justified.

It is obvious to me and the majority of people that the hospital site is a potentially valuable development site for housing. Some months ago I said publicly that I am very much against housing development on that site. But I suspect that a valuation of that land has already taken place. Therefore as part of the consulation process I intend to ask what value has been put on the land. If a reply is not forthcoming, then I will get the information by submitting a Freedom of Information request and will get an answer that way.

At the same time that all of this is happening we are told that a consultation will take place.

A consultation on what for goodness sake? I suspect that the decisions were made months ago, and the whole consultation process, in my opinion, is a sham.

I am angry. Angry that the hospital staff are reassured one day and given their redundancy letters the next. Angry that the people of Leek and the surrounding villages are being told that it is just the beds that will close and not the hospital, when we know differently, and angry that we are having to fight for something that is our basic right; that is to continue to have health care and health services provided by the Moorlands Hospital. With its dedicated staff, it has served us well for many, many years and is a much-loved and much-needed facility in our town.

The hospital must remain in Leek. I want to see the present services there not only maintained but additional services provided, and I want to see the present Minor Injuries Unit, which often deals with 50-plus incidents a day, continue and its status upgraded.

This in mind I am meeting with the leader of Staffordshire County Council, representatives from the NHS and officers from Staffordshire Moorlands District Council. On your behalf  (people of Leek and district) our aim will be to retain and increase healthcare services, under one roof, in the town.

As I said at the public meeting, never underestimate the value of people power. Keep on campaigning against these unacceptable cuts to services and I will be campaigning with you.”