Health trust defends its closure of hospital theatre

THE Trust responsible for Whitby Hospital’s closed operating theatres has responded to questions posed by Whitby Hospital Action Group (WHAG) in last Tuesday’s Gazette.

A perceived lack of usage led to a failure to secure funding to improve the theatres at Whitby and Malton hospitals and as a result NHS North Yorkshire and York closed the facilities in June.

Jayne Brown, chief executive of NHS North Yorkshire and York, said: “We recognise the strength of feeling in the local community about Whitby Hospital but we can only proceed with large scale investment if we can demonstrate value for money.

“We have agreed with Scarborough and North East Yorkshire NHS Healthcare Trust that we will complete an assessment of investment for the theatre and publish the decision within three months.

“Any investment needs to be considered as part of a wider discussion about the future of all health services in Whitby.”

WHAG had highlighted plans to invest £350,000-£500,000 into the theatres and questioned where this money had been used instead, but the trust explained the money was never actually available.

A spokesperson for the primary care trust said: “The money was never in our possession in the first place.

“To access it we needed to submit a robust business case but this was not progressed as the activity levels in the theatre did not justify the application for funding.”

In the six weeks prior to the suspension of services, Whitby theatre treated around 120 people, at a rate of 20 patients per week across no more than four sessions.

This level of usage and the results of a routine check that found the ventilation system was performing below the required standards led to the decision to close the theatre being taken by consultants who used the theatre, microbiologists and the director of public health.

The saga began in spring 2010 when assessments of the theatre were made by the Joint Advisory Group (JAG) for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and the British Association of Day Surgery (BADS).

Both concluded it was appropriate to continue to conduct general anaesthetic procedures with a view to some refurbishment work taking place, however neither JAG nor BADS identified a need to cease treatment in the unit.

In June 2010 the primary care trust presented a paper to the North Yorkshire Scrutiny of Health Committee that including a recommendation to make the necessary investment of the theatre to bring it up to standard, but activity levels were later shown to not support maintaining a full theatre at Whitby Hospital.

A routine check in June 2011 that discovered the ventilation system at the theatre was performing below required standards proved to be the final nail in the coffin of the theatre and it was closed that month.