Barnoldswick bank building is ‘utterly inadequate’ for town’s health clinic and NHS is in meltdown, council told
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Officials have slammed a wider ‘meltdown’ of NHS services in Pendle’s West Craven area, expressing ‘extreme concern’ about access to doctors, dentists and other primary care health services.
Ambulance response times reportedly being affected by hospital delays was also raised at the latest full meeting of Pendle Council.
It came when Lib-Dem and Labour councillors won a vote calling on Pendle Council to re-state an offer of land to an NHS property authority and look at other ideas to replace the old Butts clinic. Some services were moved to the old Barnoldswick Yorkshire Bank building this year and the old Butts clinic side could potentially be sold by NHS Property Services, which deals with buildings and land.
The clinic issue is part of a wider set of NHS concerns raised at Pendle Council this year including reports of ambulance and hospitals delays.
CALL FOR ACTION
Lib Dem Coun. Chris Church, a Barnoldswick councillor, led the debate. He put forward a motion calling for:
Pendle Council’s chief executive to request urgent meetings with all the relevant NHS organisations and practitioners with an all-party group of councillors to discuss services. The borough council to seek a meeting with NHS Property Services and related parties to discuss a new Barnoldswick health centre and reiterate its view that using the Yorkshire Bank building is ‘completely unacceptable’. Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson to be contacted about the Barnoldswick health centre issues and the wider ‘shortages of GPs and other health professionals’.
Coun, Church said: “If I spoke about all the ills of the strangled and starved NHS, we would be here all night. However, there are particular issues with Pendle and West Craven.
“Ambulance response times have been a thorn-in-the-side for West Craven over and over again. The reason is a national one, because ambulances cannot get away from hospitals. So the more further away you are from a hospital, the less likely you are to get a good response time. We need to take this issue to the national authorities.”
Early this year, Pendle Council was asked for views on plans to move services from the Barnoldswick Clinic at the Butts to a former Yorkshire Bank building, at the junction of Church Street and Newtown.
NHS midwives, children’s speech therapists, feet and leg specialists and mental health staff were set to move to a new but smaller clinic, under the plans..
Since 2018, NHS organisations have been looking at future options for Barnoldswick services. During the pandemic, only midwives were physically based in the Butts building. Other medical staff had worked from other venues or remotely.
The new Barnoldswick premises would offer modern accommodation at a high street location but would be smaller than the old clinic, councillors were informed.
Some patients who are able to travel further could be seen at Colne Health Centre, which is four miles away, as an ‘overflow solution’, it was said.
Over the years, the Butts clinic has been home to medical staff from different NHS trusts and services which provide community-based treatment. They include East Lancashire Hospitals Trust, Lancashire & South Cumbria Foundation Trust and the Airedale Foundation Trust, which provides some services in areas of Yorkshire and east Lancashire.
The building has also been used in the past for the East Lancashire NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which includes local doctors’ surgeries and community nurses. Coincidentally, CCGs were ended across the country this year and replaced with new larger regional bodies.
OFFER OF LAND TO NHS
Regarding clinic activities at the Yorkshire Bank building in Barnoldswick, Coun Church said: “I think this is the only issue in my time as a councillor that I have not heard a single voice in support of it. Everybody is amazed at why anybody would think this proposal is suitable. We want Pendle Council to reiterate its offer of land for a new health centre.”
Coun Church added: “This council notes with extreme concern the crisis with health services at all levels, with primary care services failing because of GP and dentist shortages, inadequate primary care services in some parts of the borough, acute hospital services regularly being beyond breaking point, inadequate social care and the impact on ambulance service and response times. This is all leading to a system in melt-down, with terrible consequences for residents.”
AMBULANCE RESPONSE TIMES
Coun Church said added: “Ambulance response times and community health facilities are significantly worse in the West Craven area than elsewhere in the borough. Replacement facilities for the Butts clinic, which has been allowed to rot, at the former Yorkshire Bank are utterly inadequate for residents’ needs.”
Lib-Dems said there were no car parking spaces near the former bank building, which was inconvenient for patients who often needed a lift to appointments and had mobility issues. They also said the town centre location was congested with traffic including builders’ vehicles.
Labour Coun Asjad Mahmood said: “Reports that the NHS cannot respond are at the highest-ever rates. There are issues with hand-over stages at hospitals. Sometimes these can take 24 hours. Patients are dying every day because ambulance services can no longer provide services that are life-saving.
“The ambulance service is on the verge of collapse because of a lack of resources and staff, from government cuts over the past 12 years. ”
In the summer, North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) quarterly figures for April to June suggested ambulances could take almost 16 minutes to reach highest category incidents in the Barnoldswick area, compared with seven minutes in Blackburn or six minutes in Blackpool, a Pendle Council report stated.
Events described in council meetings included a fatal incident in West Craven, where a person with a serious heart problem waited 40 minutes for a first responder to arrive and then an ambulance.
Lib-Dem Coun Dorothy Lord described waiting 18 hours in a wheelchair at Blackburn hospital’s A&E ward. And Conservative Coun Neil Butterworth described waiting ten hours between Blackburn and Burnley hospitals.
COUNCIL AND GOVERNMENT HEALTH REMITS
Speaking at the latest council meeting in reply to the Lib-Dem motion, Conservative Coun Nadeem Ahmed, the leader of Pendle Council, said: “Urgent medical services are not under the remit of the borough council. But we have roles elsewhere where we can be really effective, such as the new Healthier Pennine Lancashire collaborative partnership, and other ways we work. An event is coming up in January, which will be looking at refreshing health provision with a multi-agency approach.”
He added: “This motion is well-intentioned but the government is considering recommendations and talks with the Health and Social Care Committee. That is where policy will be implemented. The number of GPs has been an issue for quite a long time. I think we should wait and see what the response is from government to tackle this difficult issue.”
But in a vote by all councillors, the Lib-Dems won enough support for their motion.
HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE SHAKE-UPS
Health and social care services are undergoing nation-wide changes this year including in Lancashire.
The new Healthier Pennine Lancashire Partnership represents health and care organisations in the east Lancashire area plus local councils, voluntary and community groups. Its aim is create a more preventative approach to public health and to reduce the need to treat ill health.
Also this year, local clinical commissioning groups, (known as CCGs) have been ended and replaced by the new NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Partnership and Board.
This was part of changes designed to bring NHS and social care services and organisations closer together, including councils. Other east Lancashire borough councils, such as Ribble Valley, are part of the new integrated care arrangements.
Some national campaign groups have said the new arrangements will include a push to maximise hospital efficiencies and sell old NHS sites.