Here’s the good news - run down the Mont!

Health bosses are so intent on axing emergency services from Montagu Hospital that they have launched a cynical “good news” campaign – to ensure the Times and its readers back their plans.

Doncaster hospital chiefs want to move Mexborough’s acute wards to the Doncaster Royal Infirmary – and replace them with a rehabilitation unit.

This week, NHS Doncaster – the local Primary Care Trust – said it will lead a 14-week public consultation with residents, starting on May 25.

But executives at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are so keen for residents to back the plans, that they have ALREADY planned a “programme of good news stories to mitigate potential adverse publicity during this period”.

The Times has seen the hospital Trust’s draft report on “regulatory risks”, which shows bosses consider the Clinical Services Review plan “high risk”.

It blames “recent media coverage in local papers”, for this rating – following the Times’ exclusive reports about the proposed changes to the Mexborough hospital.

The report also states there is a “significant political dimension to these arrangements”.

The proposals have had strong opposition from all three Mexborough councillors – Sue Phillips, David Holland and Jill Arkley-Jevons.

According to the risk report, the hospital management hopes to counter further opposition, with a “communication plan”, and a “programme of good news stories”.

And if the plans are approved, in September, the hospital Trust will quickly remove acute medicine in-patient services from the Mont – BEFORE bringing in the rehab patients.

Building work – which will involve renovating three wards and erecting a gymnasium at the hospital – is planned to be completed by 2013.

Most rehab patients in Doncaster are currently cared for at the Tickhill Road Hospital in Balby. But hospital chiefs plan to shut that service.

Meanwhile, a hospital finance report reveals the Trust hopes to make a whopping £430,000 out of the sale of the former Nurses Home land.

The Cemetery Road building was demolished in March as part of a cost-cutting programme.

Now the Trust has applied to Doncaster Council for outline planning permission for housing on the site, before it attempts to sell the land.

A scheme to build 16 one-bedroom flats and eight three-storey town houses has been submitted to Doncaster’s planners and is currently “pending consideration”.

The Recreation Hall, which was donated to the Trust, is also listed for demolition – despite having NO capital charges listed against it.

But though the Trust is pursuing many cost savings, it DID have enough money to offer a pay proposal to medical consultants – which would have seen then scoop a staggering £450 for additional shifts!

Under the proposals – which had been made to the medical union representatives – consultants would have been paid £400 for every extra session worked between 7am-7pm – and £450 for extra evening and weekend work.

A Governors report said: “If the rate was set too low, there was a risk consultants would not work them”.

But a later report disclosed the Trust had “failed to reach agreements” with the local negotiating committee for the additional rates.

Meanwhile, the Trust has carried out a massive survey of scores of its own staff – to vote for their top three favourite WORDS for a new “mission statement”!

The Board of Governors ordered a consultation exercise, to ask staff which three words – out of a supplied list of 72, drawn up from an earlier consultation – best described the purpose of the organisation.

They have now compiled a list which details the number of times each word has been suggested.

According to the list, “care/caring” was the current most popular choice, with 24 votes from staff.

Eight people liked the word “professional” while in joint third place, with seven votes each, are “committed/commitment”, “excellent/excellence”, and “innovate/ innovating”.

“Patient” was only liked by one person, as was “health” and “well-being”, although “patient centred” was backed by five.

“Exceptionable” – which means “liable to objection” – was recommended by one staff member.

Mexborough councillor Sue Phillips, slammed the Trust’s “good news” strategy as “diabolical and cynical”.

She said: “If the proposals are good enough for Mexborough residents then they will see that for themselves – without any need for the hospital to have a ‘risk strategy’ in place.

“Mexborough residents don’t want good news stories to mitigate bad news. They want the truth.

“I’m quite shocked that they should be considering such a game, if the plans are for the benefit of residents.

“The plans need to be in the best interests of the people of Mexborough, and they are quite capable of seeing that for themselves.”

“I will fight to keep the best services in Mexborough – though I don’t know how many times we have to keep battling for the Montagu.

“How many times do we have to save the place?” she added.

Regarding consultant’s pay, Coun Phillips said: “It is very concerning that they could offer that much money when they are cutting services and selling off land.”

Fellow councillor David Holland also denounced the “good news” plan, saying: “I am shocked to hear that and they are clearly trying to deceive the public.

“As for the consultants’ pay proposals, the hospital Trust needs to get its priorities right. The plans to take services away from Mexborough are a blow to the town.

“I am aware that streamlining and rationalisation is being done nationally but removing our acute services is the thin end of the wedge.

“They have not given much thought, so far, to the feelings of the people of Mexborough.”

Ian Greenwood, the Trust’s director of strategic and service development, said: “It is always our intention to try to give the public a balanced view of what we are doing at all times.

“We have many good stories to tell about developments at all our hospitals, including so far unpublished news of a multi-million improvements programme at Montagu Hospital.

“This is completely separate from the PCT’s Clinical Services Review.

“We focus our efforts on keeping staff and the public up-to-date with developments, by sending information to the local media, but also using other means to ensure balance in the information that our staff and the public receive.”