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“3 Hospitals to 2”: Oppose the closure of Leicester General Hospital

Plans are well advanced to close Leicester General Hospital. Or in trust management doublespeak: “Leicester General has a key role to play in people’s future health and care needs by becoming a ‘community health campus’.

The obvious question is: what’s a community health campus? The short answer is: a closed hospital, without acute services.

University Hospitals of Leicester Trust (UHL) currently has three Hospitals: The central Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester General Hospital in the East of the City, and Glenfield Hospital to the West. There is already sub-specialisation at the Hospitals, with the most comprehensive service offered at the Infirmary, while Glenfield hosts medical and surgical  inpatients, cardiology and has a functioning intensive care unit, and the Leicester General has surgical and medical inpatients, diabetic and podiatry services, is the centre for renal and urology services with a large dialysis unit, and has gynaecology, midwifery and mental health facilities, amongst other services.

What will happen to the Leicester General? Sold off by Labour for a housing development!

In what is referred to internally as the “Three to two” Hospital plan, everything except the diabetes outpatient clinics and a small x-ray department at LGH will be wound up, and the site sold to Leicester City Council (52 of 54 councillors, as well as the Local MPs are Labour) – to make way for an “affordable” housing development, which they have the gall to claim will make use of the “vacant property” for the community!

the MAJORITY of the work done at the LGH, i.e. around 394 acute beds, day case and outpatient services will be removed and in future take place at the other two acute hospitals and in unspecified “community settings”. As an ‘acute’ hospital the General Hospital will be closed. This then, is the “community health campus”.

Cuts sold to the community as “improvement”

There was a slick consultation to cover the unpopularity of the move, which marketed the project as a £450m investment to improve facilities. New children’s and maternity units (‘hospitals’) will be built on the central LRI site.

Like the Marsden redevelopment, leading to the planned closure of St Hellier Hospital in South London, this is an expensive redesign, that is selling off NHS land and will reduce overall capacity.

Further to travel and fewer Beds

Residents of Leicester East, who are served by the Leicester General,  will have further to travel to access medical services. During the consultation, the question of premises was carefully separated from the question of services, hiding this fact, although in its “myth-buster” section, reference is made to “new types of care that will reduce the need for inpatient beds” – an old ruse that is not met by reality.

For as we have seen during the Covid Pandemic, what has disabled the NHS above all else, is the contraction of acute hospital inpatient beds, which have halved – from 240,000 nationally in the 1990s, to 140,000 today – of which only 100,000 are acute medical beds. That is why – along with the government’s ideological mismanagement, with Boris lauding “capitalism and greed” as the best solution to the pandemic and all other questions, and the growing inequality in society – the NHS was overwhelmed by Covid surges, and the country forced into lockdown.

Of particular concern, buried within the consultation on mental health services, is the following trust statement: “It was explained to the [clinical senate review consultation] panel that due to the Infection Prevention and Control challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trust had reduced its bed stock by 48%.

The Executive explained to the panel that the Trust intends to apply the learning from the temporary service changes made in response to COVID-19. A number of service changes were mandated by the national team under command and control arrangements.”

In other words, the drastically reduced capacity, inpatient services and access to care experienced during the Covid 19 pandemic will become the ‘new normal’ – justifying the loss of an entire acute hospital to the people of Leicester.

Much Valued Services Lost!

The Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland clinical commissioning groups’ assurances that relocating the standalone midwifery facility to Leicester General Hospital “will improve access for women across the area” are not very reassuring in this context – particularly for the constituents of Leicester East!

The BBC points out that “Local parents have campaigned to save it, with mothers worrying that they would have struggled to reach the LRI in time to have their children.”

Helen Cliff, co-founder of the Save St Mary’s Birth Centre group, said she was “naturally devastated” at the news of its closure. “The closure of St Mary’s will have far-reaching effects for families throughout the whole of Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland who will be unable to access this much-loved facility in the future.”

What is going on with our Hospitals and GP services?

Britain’s once proud NATIONAL Health Service has been split up into 217 individual trusts. This has been happening progressively since the NHS Community Care Act in 1990. This was sold to British workers (if we were asked at all) as a way to “reward success” and “improve services”, to “increase funding” by supplementing government funding with “private income streams” etc. Initially piloted on a few “well performing” hospitals, it was then made compulsory for all.

A NATIONAL health service, or a Profit-making enterprise?

In reality, it was a way of making the NHS act not as a planned national care institution, able to provide for all efficiently by utilising economies of scale, but as a series of businesses. Does it matter? It depends whether you want our health system to deliver the greatest health care to our people, or the greatest profit to private corporations. It cannot do both.