Campaigners braved mud and pouring rain to present a 5,000-strong petition to the West Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) opposing planned funding cuts which would stop children receiving hospital care at home.
Just 24 hours before the Save Our Hospital at Home campaign group were due to meet CCG representatives at the Countess of Chester Hospital to present their petition, the group announced they were suspending their plans to axe the £450,000 funding to provide the service in Chester.
They said they fully understood and accepted the concerns that had been raised and were confident they could find a more affordable service solution, but the welcome news still didn’t stop campaigners from asking to meet with the CCG today (Friday, April 15) to hand over the petition.
About 20 people waving placards and banners were there to speak to the CCG who accepted the petition and congratulated the campaigners on their efforts. They confirmed the plans to cut the service had been suspended and said a period of review would now take place, amid more discussions with campaigners and families that had been affected.
“The service will continue as it is for now. We will take on board the feedback we have received and look towards holding further discussions,” a representative said.
However, parents and campaigners are still unsure what the future holds for the service, which is used by scores of children who can benefit from receiving hospital care in the comfort of their own homes, freeing up beds for others who need them more.
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Campaigner Helen Till, whose son Drew has used the service since it was first implemented three years ago, said: “I’m so pleased everyone stepped up, it does show there is a need for this service. Not just for people who already use it but for people who will need it in the future.
“For now the decision has been suspended pending a review but it’s still not clear whether the service will eventually continue as it was before. However, we are delighted to have got all this public support in just one week.”
Graeme Bentham, whose daughter Anya has spent the last few years battling neuroblastoma, added: “They tried to nip the public consultation in the bud and no impact assessment was carried out. They didn’t think about what this would actually mean to the children who benefit from this service.
“Personally, I would rather wait six months for treatment than tell a child they have to spend longer than they have to in hospital. If you are going to cut budgets, don’t start with children,” he added.
Also at today’s presentation was Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders who supported the campaign against the funding cuts.
He said: “I’m delighted that common sense has prevailed and that this vitally important service will continue to support families through what are often extremely difficult times. I would like to thank all of the concerned parents and families who set out so passionately the reasons why this service is so important.
“However, while this is a welcome announcement, I remain deeply concerned about the financial pressures facing hospital trusts around the country and I fear that more decisions like this may be taken in future unless the Government fundamentally changes its approach.
“Despite the rhetoric from the Government, the NHS is facing an unprecedented financial challenge due to a combination of unrealistic efficiency targets and poor leadership from Ministers.”
Mr Madders added: “I will be seeking clarity as a matter of urgency as to whether this announcement means that the service will be seeking new referrals as certainty is needed on this point.”