In May 2004, two members of the public independently joined a Bristol Health Service Plan (BHSP) Public Involvement Group (PIG) on the Frenchay/Southmead issue. This was one of a number of such groups which were formed to facilitate public involvement on each of the sites affected by the BHSP proposals.
The lead on the BHSP was North Bristol NHS Trust. PIG members were informed that it was necessary to reduce from two hospital sites to one site. They were also informed that the clinicians wanted one although there was no evidence of a comprehensive ballot of staff on the issue.
The BHSP went to a thirteen week public consultation between September to December 2004. This was the minimum time allowed for such a consultation. Leaflets were distributed by the BHSP but no firm proposals or sites were mentioned, just ‘ideas’. The public had no idea of what was proposed and the general public still have no awareness that Frenchay Hospital is to be demolished, under the BHSP proposals.
A Mori opinion poll showed that 47% of the public preferred the Frenchay site for a new acute hospital whilst 29% preferred Southmead. These findings were ignored by NHS executives.
At a decision-making meeting on the 14 th March 2004, NHS Trust executives voted to site a new hospital at Southmead, thereby wiping Frenchay Hospital off the map. In a packed meeting, members of the public vociferously voiced their concerns on the decision.
The two members of the PIG were so dismayed at this outcome that they decided to hold a public meeting and joined forces with another member of the public who had designed a Save Frenchay Hospital website. A public meeting was held at the Greenfield Centre, Winterbourne in May 2005, by courtesy of Winterbourne Parish Council. Three hundred people attended and from the gathering, many people volunteered to join the Save Frenchay Hospital Group.
Since that time the Group has unceasingly challenged and questioned the validity of the BHSP proposals. The Group mounted a petition which gathered 48,000 signatures, 20% of South Gloucestershire ‘s population, in favour of the Frenchay site for a new acute hospital. This petition was ignored by all levels of the NHS including the Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt.
They have taken the protest to North Bristol Trust, South Gloucestershire Primary Care Trust, the South West Strategic Health Authority, Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Health, the Office of Government Commerce, the Director of Public Health, Local Government Office of the South West, the Audit Commission, the Healthcare Commission, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Prime Minister, the Directors of Public Health for two Primary Care Trusts and finally, the Deputy Ombudsman, who is currently considering the documentation and awaiting the outcome of the judicial review. (2004)