Victory in the fight for NHS in the Cotswolds
PEOPLE power has won a battle to protect the Cotswold’s NHS community hospitals and health services from an "attack" by private sector bidders.
Cirencester Hospital, Fairford Hospital and the North Cotswolds Hospital have all been spared from a bidding war, after NHS Gloucestershire board members voted unanimously to create a new NHS Trust.
This month’s decision marks a major victory for NHS staff and thousands of campaigners who have fought against the transfer of £400million worth in health services – including eight community hospitals and 3,000 nurses and health workers – to private companies.
Cirencester Hospital League of Friends chairman Sheila Rees said it would be a major relief to staff and patients, who rely on local services, after an "awful" period of uncertainty.
"It safeguards our free and accessible services in the short-term from companies striving for profit," she said "There is stability now and hopefully we can move on and try to improve and extend our healthcare."
The U-turn by health bosses followed a High Court challenge by 76-year-old Michael Lloyd, from Stroud, last year against NHS Gloucestershire’s plans to outsource care to a social enterprise.
The pensioner’s challenge prompted a 12-week consultation by NHS Gloucestershire earlier this year, which revealed 96 per cent of 2,500 members of the public and more than 90 per cent of NHS staff wanted health services to remain in the public sector.
Cotswold district councillor for Bourton-on-the-Water and Friend of North Cotswolds Community Hospital, Sheila Jeffery described it as a "positive step forward".
"We’re in good hands at the moment and I’m pleased it’s staying that way," she added.
Speaking after the meeting at Gloucestershire NHS headquarters last Monday, Mr Lloyd said he was "delighted" that local opinion had been "listened to at last".
"I remember what life was like before the NHS existed, and we cannot allow a return to the fear and poverty that ill health brought in those days," he said.
NHS Gloucestershire chief executive Jan Stubbings said potential options had been considered carefully by board members before a decision was reached.
"It is now time to look to the future and we are confident that everyone will pull together to make sure that community support and local services are the best they can be," she said.
NHS Gloucestershire will now contact the Department of Health to request that the new NHS Trust be established by April 1, 2013.