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Unity Health crisis: Hayle responds to “inaccuracies currently circulating”

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

The YUSU Community & Wellbeing Officer has responded publicly to “inaccuracies” concerning the public perception of the Students’ Union’s work on supporting students’ access to medical treatment.

In a Facebook post, written on September 1st, Hayle assured students that YUSU “is supporting Unity [Health] as they go through these much needed changes, working to ensure that healthcare provisions for students are both fit for purpose and can meet the demand as new students arrive in York in September.”

Addressing the needs of over 21,000 registered patients, Unity Health is the prime provider of healthcare services to students living on campus. An inspection in May by the Care Quality Commission judged the majority of Unity Health’s services to be “inadequate,” resulting in the Kimberlow Hill and Wenlock Terrace surgeries being placed into special measures. Since July, Unity Health surgeries have been monitored by the Commission.

Over the summer, Unity Health has scrapped its online triage system, in which patients would describe their symptoms and match them to conditions, before stating whether they were looking for general medical advice, prescription services or an appointment with their general practitioner.

Using scores given by patients in sixty-seven online reviews for the NHS website, Unity Health earns an average score of one star out of five.

Hayle went on to encourage students to contact YUSU with their feedback in order to inform the Students’ Union’s approach:

Student feedback is at the heart of YUSU’s approach to working with Unity Health. Student feedback and testimonies regarding Unity Health have been collected and listened to and we are using these to help guide the practice. Now we have the opportunity to influence and contribute to developing the service provided by Unity to make sure healthcare provision moving forward is truly reflective of student need.

“Unity is still working towards their re-inspection,” Hayle added, “with a hope to reopen their patient list, we know staff are working around the clock to address concerns.”

In addition to attending regular meetings in normal working hours, Hayle has attended additional meetings with Unity Health officials, as well as the City of York Council, on evenings and weekends.

While attending a Patient Participant Group alongside a representative of the Graduate Students’ Association, Hayle has secured special clinics to offer vaccinations to students in the first academic term of 2018/2019. She has also led discussions on improving communication between surgeries and students, taking into account potential registration challenges following the news that Unity Health will not take on new patients during the 2018/2019 academic year unless it demonstrates improvements to its services after a future inspection.

Another matter promoted by Hayle during discussions with Unity Health is patients’ privacy and respectful treatment in waiting areas and surgery receptions.

Hayle also told The Yorker that, following students’ feedback this summer, she is pursuing proposals for the provision of pharmaceutical services on grounds close to campus.

Students based in Halifax College, the southernmost college on campus, face a 1.2 mile walk to the closest pharmacy on Melrosegate, or a 1.5 mile walk to the Lloyds pharmacy on the corner of Wenlock Terrace, a short walk from the Wenlock Terrace surgery. One Halifax student told The Yorker of their thirty-five minute walk to the Wenlock Terrace pharmacy at a winter temperature of 0°C, suffering from a “broken rib, bad cough and flu.”

In early August, Hayle announced to students that YUSU will host a Unity Health practice partner and lead clinician for fortnightly consultation on campus. Students will be able to ask questions and offer feedback to these representatives of the surgery in person.

Hayle’s Facebook post last week comes after York’s branch of The Tab reported that Unity Health will not let students joining the University in the 2018/2019 academic year register as patients. Copying assurances from Unity Health’s letter to its patients almost verbatimThe Tab declined to mention any efforts of YUSU to address students’ problems other than an earlier public statement made by Hayle.

Earlier this week, Nouse published a critical opinion piece authored by Oscar Jefferson, the leader of the 2018 RON campaign and former News Editor of this publication. Though he recognised Hayle and YUSU President James Durcan’s “good intentions,” Jefferson criticised “the clunkiness of the YUSU system that means people cannot act, forced to defend their commercial partners by their inability to take radical action to combat them.”

“YUSU, in this case, has been forced to act,” wrote Jefferson. “Hayle shouldn’t be held accountable for a systemic problem that has plagued Unity for years. As the feedback has been there for years, but only now is being addressed because it’s reached a do or die moment.”

Neither Hayle nor a representative of YUSU has responded to Jefferson’s article, though The Yorker understands that a YUSU report on the interactions between YUSU and Unity Health is planned for release in the coming weeks.