Following the announcement last Friday (12th November) about the extension of the closure of the Minor Injuries Unit (MIU), the trustees of the Friends of Crowborough Hospital have said they are suspending funding any projects with the Trust and that they are investigating what alternative arrangements can be provided.
Over the year, the Friends have invested heavily in facilities at the community hospital. In 2019, for example, the Friends bought a new X-ray machine at a cost of £160,000, so better diagnostic imaging was available in Crowborough.
Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust (SCFT) closed the MIU on 15th August initially for around eight weeks. This is not the first time during the pandemic that the unit in Crowborough has closed. In January the unit was closed for five weeks.
Last week the Trust said the temporary closure was being extended so they “could provide the best possible service to local people across our Uckfield and Lewes services”.
Today (Thursday 18th), the trustees of the Friends of Crowborough Hospital have announced a moratorium on expenditure on any projects with Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust (SCFT) – the Trust commissioned to run the service at Crowborough Hospital.
The trustees have said they are in discussions with other potential providers to investigate any alternative arrangements of basic “urgent care” that may be possible, and any funding or resources available from the Friends would be needed for this and diverted for that purpose.
In their statement the SCFT said “it would not be possible to increase the capacity of the Crowborough MIU due to the very limited space on site, which is made even more challenging by the Covid-19 Social distancing measures still in effect across the NHS.”
The trustees of the Friends have refuted these claims. The Friends have said they have previously offered to fund the transition of the MIU into a larger space but this offer has not been taken up by Sussex Community Foundation Trust.
The old Physio Department (immediately inside the main hospital entrance) has been vacant since before the pandemic. This Friends have said this space is well located; would double the size of the MIU; and is immediately available. [The existing MIU space is 100 square metres; the empty “old physio” space is 200 square metres.]
The trustee committee chair explained the decision will be putting additional pressure on Pembury Hospital when the whole of the NHS is struggling:
For the last 3 months there has been a steady stream of patients arriving at the Crowborough Hospital MIU, and their existing “injury distress” has been exacerbated by the additional distress of finding their expected local urgent care unavailable.
At a time when ambulance queues outside hospital A & E departments are a significant national problem to the NHS, local MIUs can ensure that minor injuries do not add to the pressures on already stretched A&E departments. Proactive health providers have recognised this value of MIUs and some have even expanded MIU hours of opening during lockdown for this very reason.
Unfortunately, the ongoing closure of the Crowborough Hospital MIU will create some additional pressure on the Tunbridge Wells Hospital A&E department in West Kent, but that does not seem to be of concern for the new East Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group who appear to have supported this closure rather than challenged it.
The Friends support for projects with other provider NHS Trusts at Crowborough Hospital is not affected by this decision.trustee committee chair
The Friends have said support for projects with other provider NHS Trusts at Crowborough Hospital is not affected by their decision.