Staff and families bid to save neurological unit

Andrew Foster, chief executive of Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust
Andrew Foster, chief executive of Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust

Staff and families with loved ones in rehabilitation unit for people with brain injuries have expressed dismay at the ammoncement it is to close next year.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust has given notice it will no longer run the Taylor Unit, based at Leigh Infirmary, from April 1 2017, The Taylor Unit is set to close next spring, raising fears of job losses and the service moving out of the borough.

While everyone agrees that an excellent clinical and caring service is provided by the fantastic dedicated team, the environment is not of the standard the patients, or the staff, should expect

Dr Andrew Foster

A petition has been set up online to save the neurological unit, which has been used by hundreds of people over the years.

Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and WWLH both recognised the excellent work done by staff but said serious concerns have been raised about the unit’s location on the first floor of the hospital building.

WWL chief executive Dr Andrew Foster said; “The need to secure a long-term suitable environment for the delivery of neuro-rehabilitation services has been a Trust priority for a number of years and this matter has been discussed extensively with our commissioners, Wigan Borough CCG.

“While everyone agrees that an excellent clinical and caring service is provided by the fantastic dedicated team, the environment is not of the standard the patients, or the staff, should expect.

“Two main quality issues have accelerated the necessity to give the commissioners the notice to move the service. Firstly, the Trust’s CQC report following its inspection in December 2016 gave praise to the service but again highlighted the same issue of the unsuitability of the physical ward environment.

“It was a CQC must-do to address this problem. Secondly, the 5 Boroughs Partnership Trust will be vacating the Leigh site in March 2017 and this would leave the Taylor Unit clinically isolated. These two developments brought matters to a head.

“In April 2016 WWL’s Trust Board wrote to Wigan CCG expressing concern that, despite ongoing discussions, the commissioners had been unable to suggest a way forward.

“It further commented that unless a suitable proposal or plan could be agreed by September 30 2016, WWL would have no other option but to stop delivering the service with effect from April 1 2017. Six months final notice was duly given in September 2016.

“We are committed to ensuring a smooth transition for staff and patients and are actively working with commissioners and the wider GM neuro-rehab community to help in finding a long-term solution.”

CCG chair Dr Tim Dalton said: “The neuro-rehabilitation unit, the Taylor Ward, at Leigh Infirmary helps people who have serious brain injuries. The staff at this unit are specialists and do an excellent job of providing this vital service to patients from the borough and wider.

“WWL has run the service from Leigh Infirmary for a number of years. However, they no longer feel it is right for them to run the contract and have formally given us notice from April 1 2017. I understand that this is worrying for patients, their families and carers, and also for staff.

“I want to reassure everyone that the funding for the service is still in place and the service will continue to be given to all those who need it.

“The CCG are working with clinical experts to ensure we have a solution as soon as possible.

“We are exploring all options including looking for ways we can keep it at Leigh Infirmary if possible, or what our other options are if we can’t. “

A petition to save the unit has been launched on the Government’s website and has so far attracted more than 1,800 signatures.

The CCG is urging anyone with concerns about the impending closure to ring 01942 482711.

The petition can be found at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/172188