Hospital Closure Faces Legal Challenge – "Enough is Enough"

The ‘temporary’ closure of Edward Hain Hospital in St Ives, that has now lasted for 18 months, will face a legal challenge for ‘deviation of service’.

This means Cornwall NHS Partnership Trust will be reported to the Secretary of State, accused of not delivering the service they are paid to do.

At today’s Council meeting of the Health Scrutiny Committee at County Hall, Councillors were left agitated and frustrated by the lack of progress on the St Ives hospital.

Graham Webster, vice chair of Health Initiative Cornwall asked the committee to consider the legal move to re-open the hospital.

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Edward Hain is a Community Hospital in an old town house in St Ives but the 12 beds on the first floor for longer term patients were closed in February 2016 due to fire safety concerns.

But now, the NHS say that the decision whether or not to spend money on the work needed to adjust the building to make it safe should wait til after the STP consultations have been completed – but that could take up to two more years.

The STP consultations will design Cornwall’s NHS services for the next 5 years but have been dogged by controversy. At the Scrutiny committee’s meeting in March, the original consultations were called ‘inadequate and seriously flawed” ‘Council STP Committee: “the process of engagement with the public was inadequate and seriously flawed”

The whole consultation process is basically starting again.

Health campaigners accuse the Cornwall Partnership Trust of trying to create facts on the ground by keeping the hospital closed. They say the STP process is just being used as a smokescreen to permanently close the hospital.

This belief has been strengthened recently as an offer of more than £600k toward the cost of repairs from the Friends of Edward Hain has been politely refused by NHS Property Services (the landlord).

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Loveday Jenkin of MK told NHS bosses today “Just because a community hospital is not up to scratch doesn’t mean the need isn’t there”.

Edward Hain isn’t closed completely – the ground floor is still open for outpatient appointments and the like.

“It’s time to use our legal muscle and say enough is enough” said Cornwall Councillor for St Ives, Andrew Mitchell in an impassioned address to the committee.

“The feeling of myself, the feeling of most of the people of St Ives, indeed the whole of Cornwall, are turning into feelings of anger. Anger at the lack of involvement. We’re not even sure who is supposed to be taking this forward”

Cllr Mitchell revealed to today’s committee  “At the last meeting I attended with NHS Property Sevices they admitted that the works that they were responsible for would cost £900k. Originally it was £150k, then it doubled, then went up to 800k then not too long ago it was estimated at £1.2m! I’m glad to see it’s going the other way now, cause now it’s £900k in total. At the last meeting, £900k between the two parties was available! There is disbelief by myself and the people of St Ives that no work has taken place”

“For this to carry on would be an injustice. To wait for the completion of the STP process, that is a year or two away is outrageous” Cllr Mitchell concluded.

‘Substantial variation’ from a contract is established in case law, confirmed the Council’s lawyers. Previous cases have focused on the impact to the community and length of closure. An impact assessment will now be drawn up.

Ultimately, the Secretary of State for Health will make the decision if Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is not delivering the service it should be. But there is a lengthy process to get to that stage.

The committee would have like to write directly to the Secretary of State to inform him of their intention and concerns but officials said there was a procedure to go through.