Health bosses are in dispute with a whistleblower over claims moving a rehabilitation ward could cause problems for both patients and their families.
Serious concerns have been raised about neurological recovery care being transferred from the Taylor Unit at Leigh Infirmary to Trafford, which health chiefs are currently consulting on.
It will be impossible for families to get to Trafford every dayWhistleblower
A staff member who asked not to be identified said the move out of out of the borough is likely to lead to resignations among the staff and massive inconvenience for families, with patients recovering from life-changing injuries possibly suffering as a result.
Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which has identified the health authority running Trafford General Hospital as its preferred provider for the switch, has firmly denied the claims.
The search for a new location followed Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust giving notice it could no longer run the area’s neuro-rehab service for people who have suffered brain injuries.
The CCG has organised a string of public engagement events to explain the changes to those affected, hear about concerns and try to find solutions to problems.
The whistleblower said: “We were going to go across as a team but when we met with WWL and Trafford we found out we are going to join a 30-bed unit and we will be integrated into the staff.
“Everybody I’ve spoken to has said they are not going. They will not work on a 50-bed unit because they don’t think they can give care to 50 patients.
“We’re a 20-bed unit at Leigh and all the reports say patients get the best care.
“Families have been looking at the route and it could be an hour and 40 minutes in a car, even longer on public transport. One family told me they did a trial run and it took them two hours.
“What people don’t understand is that patients can be with us for up to 18 months or two years.
“Head injuries are not like any other injury.
“It’s a very scary process and they need their families with them. It will be impossible for families to get to Trafford every day.
“I think it stinks.
“It’s all about money, not patients and relatives. Relatives aren’t going to be able to visit and patients aren’t going to get the care they get here.”
However, the CCG has issued a strong response to the claims, firmly denying patients and their loved ones are not at the centre of the changes and rebutting any suggestions of cost-cutting.
CCG chair Dr Tim Dalton said: “I need to be clear that we have not reduced the amount of money available for this service and I can tell you that we wouldn’t be moving the service unless we had to.
“Having looked in to all our options,
“Trafford General is the best-placed hospital to be able to offer patients the high-quality care they need and they do have better and more modern facilities than we currently have at Leigh.
“We are working closely with the hospital to engage with staff on their future following the move of the unit.
“Some of the staff have already indicated that they would like to move with the service, but some of the staff are likely to choose to take an alternative job at Wigan or Leigh hospitals.
“This is a personal decision for them and they will get supported throughout whatever their decision.
“All the staff have been invited to go over to Trafford to see the new unit, talk to the staff there and understand how the ward would work.
“The new unit has more space and facilities than Leigh Infirmary and has an enclosed community garden; these things will help staff to give their patients high-quality care.
“I know that it will take some families longer to visit their loved ones and understand that is difficult.
“All of us know that from some areas of Wigan borough and at peak travel times, the journey to Trafford isn’t always easy. Unfortunately, the service can’t stay at Leigh Infirmary.
“Trafford General Hospital is on main transport routes and isn’t far from the Trafford Centre and so people can get there by car, bus or train.
“There is plenty of free parking at the hospital and it has open visiting hours, meaning there is flexibility for visitors on when they go.
“We are talking to patients and residents to see what we can do to support families and carers to make the journey easier and to understand what people do when they travel for other services, for example cancer care at the Christie.
“It is important to us that we talk to patients, families and carers to understand the impact of the change in location of the neuro-rehabilitation service.
“They can give us valuable insight into the needs and concerns of future patients and families.
“We are spending time with them and with staff explaining the need for the move and listening to what it might mean. We have asked them to bring forward any ideas of how we might be able to reduce some of the impact.”