HEALTH chiefs are considering launching a formal consultation into paediatric and maternity services at the George Eliot Hospital - despite there being only one option on the table.
The idea, which is due to be decided next week, has been slammed both by Nuneaton MP Marcus Jones and Warwickshire County councillor Barry Longden.
The town's voice in Parliament has called the move ‘a farce’ while Cllr Longden, a seasoned campaigner fighting to keep services at the Nuneaton Trust, has labelled it a ‘shambolic mess’.
As reported in the Nuneaton News last month, maternity services were saved from the axe under the controversial review of services by the Arden Cluster.
The only concession, under Option 6, was the loss of Caterina ward in favour of a new assessment unit and after 10pm children would be transferred to University Hospital in Coventry.
Although this is still the case, a full consultation could be launched to find out what people think about the change ahead of its implementation and to ensure they understand what will happen. It had been hoped by some quarters that this would be downgraded to some `public engagement exercises'.
Marcus Jones told the News: “It is clear that the George Eliot Hospi tal , the major i ty of people, the councillors, the area’s two MPs and the primary care trust - not to mention the Royal College of Paediatrics who carried out a review into its viability, support Option 6.
“I am absolutely perplexed as to why we need a full consultation into this issue and we need to ask why, at such a critical time economically, we should spend so much money on a consultation when it would surely be better spent on front-line healthcare.
“The question needs to be asked exactly how much it will cost to go to full consultation as opposed to public engagement. It's a bit of a farce.”
Barry Longden expressed fears that Option 6 could be in danger. He said that the latest twist had come about after criticism from health chiefs in Leicestershire and Coventry.
“After about eight months this is now in grave danger of disintegrating into a shambolic mess, and very likely to end up with three different proposals, unless Leicestershire and Coventry come up with one between them, and try to overthrow Option 6,” said the councillor who sits on a Task and Finish Group overlooking the consultation.
“This appalling situation should not have been allowed to happen.”
He added: “When the decision was made to go for the one option and engagement rather than full consultation, this was reported extensively in the press and on the radio. There has not been one negative response to that announcement, and both MP’s are fully supportive of the proposal.”
Sue Roberts, transformation programme director at the Arden Cluster, explained that it was important that they fulfil a promise to the people to have a say.
“A recommendation is going to next week's Arden Cluster Board to progress to public consultation with one proposal.
“The proposal involves the transfer of inpatient paediatrics from George Eliot Hospital to University Hospital in Coventry. A new short -stay paediatric assessment unit is proposed to be created at George Eliot Hospital, open between 8am and 10pm. There are no changes proposed to maternity services, gynaecology services or the Special Care Baby Unit.
“There has been some debate locally about whether a formal consultation should be undertaken on this mat ter. The recommendation going to the Board is to progress to formal consultation for a number of reasons including the fact that two of the three local Health Overview and Scrutiny Committees locally felt that this would be preferable and that we have promised the public for some time that they would have a chance to have their say on this matter and we wish to fulfil this promise.”
The final decision on whether to progress to public consultation will be made by the Board on Wednesday.