THE location for the new Forest hospital – although not the exact site – will be decided by Gloucestershire health chiefs at the end of August
The board of Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust (GCS) and the governing body of the county’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will have in front of them a recommendation from a “citizens’ jury” as to whether it should be in or near Cinderford, Coleford or Lydney.
The new hospital is expected to be open by 2022 with the current facilities at Lydney and the Dilke remaining until the replacement is operational.
The CCG and GCS will hold back-to-back meetings on Thursday, August 30,to come to a decision.
The jury, made up of 18 Forest residents and four local healthcare professionals, will take evidence over four days, starting on Monday, July 30, at the Forest Hills Golf Club in Coleford before making its recommendation in public at the end of the session.
The final decision has to rest with the GCS and CCG, but they are not compelled to accept the jury’s recommendation – and could come to different decisions – the Forest Health Forum was told.
Among the factors the jury will consider will be accessibility and transport, and the environment.
It will look specifically at the relatively poor access there is likely to be for people living in the north of the Forest and how that can be offset by community transport and access to other hospitals such as Gloucester Royal.
Caroline Smith, of the CCG, said: “The Citizens’ Jury will make a recommendation – it is not an accountable body – CCG and GCS are the accountable bodies who are required to make that decision.”
She told the health forum: “Ultimately they are the decision-making group and they could make a different decision to the recommendation, but we would be very clear about why that was the case.
“So, in the same way, the jury would be expected to say why they are making their decision and on what basis, the Care Services board and the CCG governing body would have to do the same.
“It is likely we will come to the same conclusion, but it is not impossible that we could come to a different conclusion.
“Citizens’ juries, the company, say they try to assess the strength of people’s feelings as well as the actual recommendation they make.
“If there are a number of the jury who are saying it could be here, but I wouldn’t be heartbroken if it was here either, that’s a slightly different conversation for the governing body and the board to have, whereas if it’s a strong and clear message, that speaks volumes.
“All of the jury is being held in public so that recommendation will be made on August 3 and it will be in the public domain – but we are clear it is only a recommendation at that stage, the final decision is at the board meetings on August 30.”
She said that while the recommendation was about the general location, health chiefs were confident that there were “at least two sites” avaialble in each location.
But there is disquiet about some of the evidence-gathering process, with claims that the jury will not consider the merits of precise sites.
Mr John Thurston, of the Friends of Lydney Hospital, said: “The decision of the jury and the criteria the jury are being asked to consider are not the whole considerations that need to be made to position a hospital.
“They specifically exclude – and we have been forbidden to mention anything about –the quality of sites.
“We are told what we have got to say and I do not like that.
“The quality of the site and the number of services you can offer from a location are important considerations. We’ve asked if we can mention it and we cannot.”
Chair of the GCS board, Ingrid Barker, said: “The terms of reference are about the locality, not the specific site.
“In the end it will be GCS who have to secure a site and build something on it, that is our responsibility.
“We have taken soundings and we have done analysis of different sites. We believe we could make it work in any of the three probable locations,” she added.
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