The Health and Wellbeing Association (HWA) has been involved historically in talks about the reprovisioning since 2018. The HWA was, therefore, extremely concerned about the sudden decision to close the Edington inpatient service this week without the HWA, or the wider community having any involvement, or pre-warning of this eventuality.
The HWA has a responsibility within its constitution to gather community views and has had a central role , until recently, in the reprovisioning discussions. Certainly, since our appointment as Co-Chairs of the HWA, we have not been included in the communications about the Community Hospital and Care Homes Provision Change Board or the IJB. Although we understand that the Change Board has been meeting since 31st May 2021, with a timetable of meetings agreed. Perhaps Covid has had an effect, but we have been excluded without explanation. So, we are astounded that this hugely important community decision was made without HWA or community involvement.
The HWA has a responsibility to the community in supporting diversity, equality and improving opportunities to reduce inequalities in health. This is developed through networking, partnership building and reducing the gap between community organisational conversations and stakeholder ones. Recent scoping research has highlighted that this approach is beneficial and is reflected in Scottish Government guidelines for health in communities. This decision has had a ripple effect on community trust and wellbeing, increasing anxiety and uncertainty at a time when we are trying to recover from a global pandemic.
Closing the Edington without consultation is disempowering and will exacerbate health inequalities in the immediate and long-term future of the North Berwick ward. The Edington has proved a lifeline for many in terms of the care it gives and local access. This is important now and should be considered when we are thinking about the long-term planning of local services.
The HWA wants to hold the Change Board to their own ‘Terms of Reference’ which state that a key responsibility is, to “to ensure a culture of involvement, engagement and appropriate consultation.” We, the HWA, would go further and to say that it is not just consultation, but participation that is key to improving community and health and wellbeing.
The HWA would expect that the members of the Health and Social Care Partnership, the Change Board and the IJB will review their decision-making process in light of the comments above and the strength of community voices raised following their announcement.
Lorna Sinclair and Hilary Smith