The Rt Hon Tony Blair
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

A. citizen
100 Any Road
Typical Town


Date:   27th March 2006
 Dear Prime Minister

Closure of local hospitals

The enclosed copy of a letter to Ben Bennet Project Director of the Bristol Primary Care Trust puts forward a case for the retention of a local hospital, in this case Keynsham. Hospital. (I have altered the name and address for reasons of privacy of the letters published on www.lettertothepm.co.uk)

There are a number of these local hospitals throughout the country that are threatened with closure. Patients will be sent to hospitals that are in most cases located many miles away.

When we are all aware that the oil on which our transport system depends is a very finite resource, due to run out in 50 years or so why is the government not trying to really maintain local resources, which means that people will not need to use precious fuel travelling unnecessarily?

I hardly feel that the decision to close any of these local hospitals is based on any reason other than lack of funding.

As many of these hospitals offer respite care their closure would seem to indicate that the government is reluctant to provide high quality care for the elderly and those patients who whilst not elderly have become terminally ill.

Is this desire to limit funding to a lower than required level based on the belief that the people of this wonderful nation of ours are unwilling to spend more money on the National Health Service.

No government, that I can remember, has ever asked me whether I am willing to spend more on National Insurance and Health. Well I am! But what I am concerned about and I believe others are concerned about is: waste and the misuse of our health service by people from other countries who take advantage of our health and welfare system.

Provided that the government does try to carefully manage the health service to minimise waste I am quite happy to pay more and I believe that most of the people are also prepared to pay more.

Yours sincerely

A. Citizen

Letter to Ben Bennet Project Director Bristol Primary Care Trust

Ben Bennett
Project Director
Bristol Primary Care Trust
King Square House
King Square
Bristol Phone:

13th February 2006

Dear Mr Bennett

RE: Keynsham Hospital- Review of Services & Public Consultation

I have made my views clear before in a letter to the BPCT. However, I welcome a further opportunity to support the retention of Keynsham hospital. At that time my brother was being looked after in Keynsham hospital. He died last May in the hospital. He was 56 years old and had been fighting to recover from an incurable brain tumour.

He had the choice of being looked after in either St Martins hospital in Bath or Keynsham or in a care home. He preferred Keynsham for at least three reasons:

  1. The spatial arrangement of the wards means that patients have a better outlook than in St Martins, which has beds opposite each other.
  2. A care home is a more claustrophobic place –he didn’t want to be in his own room. But he had his own space at Keynsham. There was a wall for photos which we used
  3. the staff at Keynsham are the best nursing team that he had encountered

The latter reason is not attainable by decisions about buildings or money. Good people are priceless they are not easy to find.

Treatment of Staff

The hospital is local and its closure means breaking up that team of wonderful people. Like all other local hospitals, the staff will be redeployed and forced to travel further afield and incur additional time and money on travel to a new place of work where they may not be happy. Contented hospital staff also provide support for relatives by their dedication to patient care and cheery manner.

Treatment of Patients

Patients will no doubt receive fewer visits from friends and family owing to greater travelling distance and the limitations of travel by public transport. I used to visit every evening but one, but I was able to do this as I have a car. To travel further to visit a loved one would mean using extra fuel and may be not possible after the end of the working day for some relatives.

Environmental Factors

The closure of Keynsham hospital and other local hospitals places a greater burden on the environment as well as people (staff, patients and family/friends) due to:

  1. Wasting precious fuel: travel to work, to use essential services (healthcare, education & food shopping) and recreational amenities should be minimised to conserve fuel (that will without doubt become increasingly expensive and possibly rationed in the near future)
  2. The hospital is functional as a local resource and is located in an accessible part of Keynsham (buildings should not be destroyed without very good reason)
  3. Closure of Keynsham and other local hospitals forces more traffic onto the road system thus increasing pollution and stress on drivers and their passengers
  4. Local hospitals can provide emergency relief when there is unexpected demand on general hospitals e.g. The Royal United in Bath. Local hospitals are an important part of the defence of our country in exceptional circumstances: major flu outbreak, natural disaster and terrorist attack

An Ethical Proposal

For the reasons given above I don’t believe that the closure of Keynsham hospital is an ethical proposal. Please ask yourself the following questions:

  1. will patients be better off?
  2. will nursing and support staff be better off?
  3. will the relatives and friends of the patient be better off?
  4. isn’t this proposal just a way of saving money for the health trust?
  5. does this proposal respect the wishes of local people?

If item 4. above is a prime factor, then it is about time that the trust and others made their grievances known to the government. I personally would prefer to pay more for a decent health service than pay for its failure. The better our health service, the healthier we should be and consequently the cost of keeping us healthy should be less in future.

After last year I feel dreadful, tired, but at least I feel strongly that the staff of Keynsham hospital did their best to make my brother's life comfortable.

Yours sincerely

name withheld for privacy

A reply to the letter to the PM above has been included below.

Richmond House
79 Whitehall

28 April 2006

Dear Citizen,

Thank you for your recent letter to Tony Blair, regarding the future of hospitals in your local area. The large number of letters sent to the Prime Minister means that it is not always possible for him to reply personally. Staff at the Department of Health have there fore been asked to reply to your letter on his behalf.

I am sorry to hear of your concern over the future of your local hospitals. However, the configuration of local services is a matter for the local NHS, working in partnership with its local community. The future of local health services is for local decision making which should take full account of local circumstances. It is for the PCT to make this decision. This is where the specific local knowledge and expertise lies and it is not appropriate for the Department to become involved at this stage.

Ministers have no formal part in this process unless this matter is referred by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. You have taken the most appropriate first step by writing directly to Bristol Primary Care Trust, who can address the concerns you raise. I am sorry that I cannot be of any further assistance.

Genevieve Lobo

Department of Health