It was going to be just another annual general meeting for the Friends of Savernake Hospital and the Community – Thursday, 12 May in the Town Hall. Then their Chairman, Paul LeFever handed a £10,000 cheque to Angela Fever, Chief Executive of the Prospect Hospice in Wroughton.
Angela had come to the meeting to thank the Friends for their first donation of £10,000 – made in 2009. She explained how that donation had been used for the ‘Prospect at Home’ programme for end of life care.
This scheme provides nursing, counselling and practical support to allow people to spend their last days in their own homes with their relatives. Since the ‘Prospect at Home’ programme was launched in April 2008, 1,137 patients have been supported in this way – improving their quality of life before they die.
‘Prospect at Home’ covers the Marlborough area, can provide 24-hour care and is free of charge. The Prospect Hospice needs to raise almost five million pounds a year from donations, its shops and fund raising schemes – it can then receive some top-up funding through the NHS.
The Savernake Friends’ finances are in robust shape after a bequest of £166,000 by the late Cyril Harding of Burbage. This has enabled them to make several grants during 2010 including the provision of specialist equipment to surgeries in Pewsey and Burbage.
They are also continuing their major investment to provide in and around Marlborough ten strategically placed defibrillators for emergency, on site treatment of heart attacks.
Claire Perry MP then addressed the meeting. With the Chief Executive of Wiltshire Primary Care Trust, Jeff James, in the audience, she criticised the decision to close the Minor Injuries Unit at Savernake Hospital. She said the Marlborough area had been “very disproportionately hit in the reduction of facilities” at Savernake.
“I am very committed to getting local health services back”, she said. With the wider changes to the NHS, she hoped there would be a strong debate about the future for Savernake.
And she pledged to “do anything I can to be involved this debate – bring resources to the debate.”
Some people who support the aims of the Savernake campaign now think that the local population is too small to support a Minor Injuries Unit, but a more general and similar service provided by an Urgent Care Centre at Savernake should be possible.
Mrs Perry acknowledged that a major problem was the ownership of Savernake and continuing responsibility for the PFI contract which enabled it to be built. And she confirmed that the Health Secretary has not yet decided how to resolve this.
Mrs Perry also spoke about the wider problems of the NHS Bill that is now being held ‘on pause’: “Perhaps there are things in there that are wrong – governments don’t get things right all the time. To stop and listen, as was done on forests, is, I think, actually a mark of grown-up government.”