Anger as Burnley fracture clinic closes

editorial image

Health bosses have been accused of betraying vulnerable patients in Burnley after transferring the town’s Fracture Clinic to Blackburn.

The Burnley Express has discovered that Burnley General Hospital’s Fracture Clinic will be moved to the Royal Blackburn Hospital for a six month trial.

This will be a massive inconvenience to patients, many of whom will be elderly and in pain.

Russ McLean, Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group

But MPs and health campaigners have said the move is not the right one for patients, who now face a painful 13 mile journey from Burnley to Blackburn.

The East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust said the move would “enhance patients’ experience” and would cut long waiting times.

Mr Qaisar Choudry, clinical director for Orthopaedic Services at the Trust, said: “It is unacceptable that our patients wait far longer than is recommended by British Orthopaedic Guidelines and I am confident that people will appreciate being seen much sooner, at the right time and place. The result will be a better quality and safer service for all.”

But Burnley’s former MP Gordon Birtwistle said he was outraged at the decision and accused the Trust of breaking promises to keep the fracture clinic as a part of the new urgent care centre which opened in Burnley in 2013.

He said: “I feel absolutely let down – it’s outrageous. When I secured the £10m. for the new urgent care centre I was assured that the fracture clinic would remain in Burnley.

“All the facilities are there now so this has nothing to do with money. I want our new MP Julie Cooper to meet with the chief executive and chairman of the Trust and demand that the fracture clinic is retained here in Burnley.”

The town’s new Labour MP Mrs Cooper said the move was down to government funding cuts.

She added: “I will always campaign for more and better services to be available at Burnley General Hospital and of course I will be vehemently opposing the Trust’s proposal to consider removing the Fracture Clinic from Burnley.

“There are serious ongoing concerns about the cuts in funding to the NHS. This year the health service has a funding gap of £30 billion.

“The Government has promised to provide £8 billion of that but have not as yet identified where this will come from. This still leaves a shortfall of an eye-watering £22 billion. I will monitor the situation closely and keep people informed.”

Russ McLean, the chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said: “This will be a massive inconvenience to patients, many of whom will be elderly and in pain.

“I realise that the Trust is under huge financial strain but I am disappointed that this decision has been taken.

“I feel more provision should be made for patients in their local community and I will be raising this with the Trust’s chief executive when I meet him next.”

Mrs Linda Whittaker, a former Unison representative at Burnley General, said the move could dissuade patients from seeking further treatment.

She said: “I was working as a union rep when the idea of moving the Fracture Clinic to Blackburn was first mooted in 2005.

“At the time, I had fractured my spine in three places and was in tremendous pain.

“When people suffer an accident the last thing they want to do is travel 13 miles to Blackburn on a shuttle bus.

“I am very disappointed that the Trust has decided now to move the clinic.

Patients want to be seen as close to home as possible so I think this is a detrimental step.

“I love Burnley General Hospital and still work as a volunteer there. It is very sad to see the clinic go and I can’t support this.”

The British Orthopaedic Association clinical guidelines highlight the quality measures that should be expected from a fracture clinic service and include the importance of a fracture clinic appointment within 72 hours.

Dr Damian Riley, medical director at the Trust, added: “As always, we are fully committed to providing safe, personal and effective care for all our patients.

“We will measure the effectiveness of this change over the next six months and the results will determine our next steps.”