Statement: Local Politicians betray the NHS

Telford and Wrekin Council’s rebranding of ‘PRH4Me’ as ‘NHS4All’ is little more than a sleight of hand to cover up their parochialism. In calling for support for the Future Fit Option 2, using their tagline “Option 2 – better for all”, they are calling for the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital A&E to be closed and the hospital downgraded. It seems that their ‘4All’ doesn’t include the residents of Shropshire and Powys.

The same parochialism is on offer from the Liberal Democrat Councillors of South Shropshire. They are calling for support for Option 1, with its closure of the A&E and the Women’s and Children’s Centre at the Princess Royal Hospital. Putting Ludlow first means not caring about the residents of Telford and Wrekin.

And all six of our MPs covering the Future Fit region are trying to avoid comment on the proposed cuts and closures altogether by focusing just on the £312m capital funding – forgetting to mention it’s a loan that must be paid back, with much of the funding coming from a PFI-type deal (Project Phoenix).

All these politicians, councillors and MPs alike, are avoiding the real question. Future Fit is bad for everyone – no matter which A&E is closed. No one benefits from the Future Fit plans to cut hospital nursing staff by over 20%. No one is helped by the plan for a 10% cut in the number of medical beds – the beds available for urgent and emergency patients admitted to A&E. It is the shortage of these beds that led again and again to long trolley waits and A&E crisis in both our hospitals last winter. No one benefits from an ambulance service, already stretched to breaking point, being asked to take on more and longer journeys with no extra resources. Ambulance wait times will increase for everyone. No one benefits, either, from mortgaging our financial future with loan repayments of £10-20m a year taken away from spending on local patient care.

The health bosses will say that if you support either Option 1 or Option 2, you are supporting the underlying package with all its associated cuts. It will not matter what caveats or concerns are expressed. Support for either option means precisely that: support, including support for cuts and closures.

Up until last summer, the health bosses had publicly promised there would be a third option – keep things as they are. They took that option away at the Joint CCG meeting last August. They realised most people want to keep both our A&Es open. They are now back to playing a divide and rule game. That’s why the only thing they are asking people to comment on is which A&E gets closed. We say a National Health Service means decent quality health services for everyone, no matter where they live.

Simon Wright, the Chief Executive of hospital trust SaTH, let slip the truth when he was speaking to a meeting of Shropshire Patients Group in November 2015: “We would all prefer to have two A&Es”. He then explained that the reason Future Fit was going to close one of them was that “only one is feasible given our resources.” In other words, it’s a cut to clinical care on the basis of NHS underfunding.

Some of our elected politicians seem to think the best way to play Future Fit is ignore the real damage it will do, and just say to their local voters, “I’m sticking up for you”. Presumably they are hoping no one will blame them for the real cuts in NHS services that they are effectively supporting. They seem to think that supporting one variant or another of NHS cuts is the best they can do –in both Telford and Ludlow, councillors are saying the option to keep two A&Es is not on the table.

That’s allowing the health bosses to set the agenda. We don’t have to do that. In Huddersfield a two-year campaign that united people in saying they needed both of their A&Es won a victory last month. The Secretary of State halted a plan to downgrade the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary that had been proposed by the local health bosses. Unity across the area affected by the closure led directly to that victory.

We can do the same. Let’s not be taken in by the health bosses divide and rule tactics. Let’s say no to both options. Let’s say no to fewer nurses and fewer medical beds. Let’s fill in our Future Fit Surveys marked ‘STRONGLY DISAGREE’ for BOTH Option 1 and Option 2.

Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin Defend Our NHS
04 June 2018

 

Future Fit: Either Choice a Disaster for Patients

The Future Fit consultation is a sham. They are attempting to get people from Shropshire, Telford and Powys to choose between two options, both of which will mean worse healthcare for everyone – fewer nurses and fewer medical beds in our hospitals, longer waits for ambulances everywhere, and cuts to our community health services.

Whatever some politicians and health bosses are saying, it is not a done deal. Just a couple of weeks ago the Secretary of State halted the plan to close the A&E in Huddersfield, forcing people to travel to one further away (9 miles, not the 18 we are threatened with). They won this victory because of united campaign that didn’t say “close their’s, not our’s”. And they used many of the same arguments with the Secretary of State that we have raised locally. Read their campaign’s statement here.

ConsultationSurvey

We are calling on people to fill in the Future Fit Survey and answer “Strongly Disagree” to both options. You can download the Survey from here.

And some Facts you won’t find in the Future Fit consultation documents:

Continue reading

‘I think is it really important we remember that the best solution is to keep both A&E departments open.’

WhatsApp Image 2017-11-03 at 10.33.27.jpg‘I think is it really important we remember that the best solution is to keep both A&E departments open’.
Simon Wright, Chief Executive of Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals, September 2017

That’s the second time Simon has said both A&Es should stay – and he’s right! Our two hospitals cover an area 3 times the size of Greater London. One A&E for an area that size is nonsense. Research shows that longer journeys to get to A&E mean more people die.Government cuts mean NHS spending in our area will be slashed by £135m a year. Future Fit is part and parcel of that big cuts plan. That means cuts to hospital care. Telford is set to lose the Women’s and Children’s Centre and urgent care beds, Planned Care will be stripped out of Shrewsbury, there will be 100s fewer doctors, nurses and therapists, and fewer hospital beds.

Community NHS services and social care are being cut too. There’s an onslaught against community hospitals and Minor Injuries Units. Public health funding is being slashed. GPs are already stretched to the limit. Health bosses think we can all take care of ourselves instead! ‘Community resilience’ and ‘self-care’ are the future, they claim.And Future Fit, they quietly admit now, won’t solve the problems recruiting Consultants.

• We need BOTH our A&Es, BOTH our hospitals, and community services that work.

• We need proper funding for the local NHS, instead of one of the lowest levels per person in England. Will our MPs fight for fair funding for our area? They need to!

• We need an NHS that works, not Future Fit cuts and closures.

Can you help us defend our NHS? We need people who can give out leaflets, help organise meetings, write letters to newspapers, write leaflets or posters, and share your ideas on building this campaign.

Email info@shropshiredefendournhs.org

Find us on Facebook and at https://shropshiredefendournhs.org/

Ludlow GPs Challenge Community Services Review

The Shropshire CCG’s Community Services Review was launched with the intent to cut costs of community services. The initial report that is being discussed by the CCG Governing Body today (October 11) concludes that ‘change’ is necessary. The conclusions imply the closure of our rural Minor Injuries Units (MLUs) and all beds in our Community Hospitals. In practice, that means the closure of Community Hospitals.

The GP Partners at the two Ludlow practices have issued this statement challenging the review on the eve of the Governing Body meeting.

Letter to the press on behalf of the partners of Portcullis and Station Drive Surgery, Ludlow

The partners of Ludlow medical practices are surprised by the public launch of the community services review in the media where it has been announced that a working document will be discussed in the CCG Board meeting tomorrow. We feel this discussion is premature as the data used in this working document is still incomplete and can be potentially misleading and may lead to bias. A number of requests have been made to the CCG to improve the data so that it is more accurate, more representative and less subject to potential bias and many of our requests have been ignored. Continue reading

Future Fit: What a Shambles

Today, 13th September, Shropshire CCG nodded through the next stage of the ‘Future Fit’ NHS cuts and closures plan. The ‘Pre-Consultation Business Case’ has been approved by the CCGs and will be submitted to NHS England for assurance on Friday. ‘Consultation’ – in a manner of speaking – will probably begin in mid-October and run for 14 weeks.

Last month, the two CCGs – Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin – published an independent review of Future Fit, carried out by KPMG[1]. The review identified ‘three overarching areas for attention’ and added ‘We recommend these are addressed by the programme before moving to public consultation’. Has that been done? No, very conspicuously not. Continue reading

The outrage around Ludlow Hospital

The real scandal around Ludlow Hospital is that an NHS Hospital relies on charitable donations to buy something as basic as an ECG machine.

The decision of the Chief Executive of Shropshire Community NHS, Jan Ditheridge, to refuse to accept a charitable donation to allow Ludlow hospital to get an ECG machine for use by outpatients has been met by outrage. On social media, people from Ludlow are almost unanimous in condemning the decision, and there has been a similar response from the national media.

Shropshire Defend Our NHS has been asked to make a statement on the issue.

Continue reading

“The health outcomes, whether they’re better or worse, will be on your shoulders”

That was the comment at the end of the Joint CCG Future Fit meeting from Dr Julia Buckley, a councillor from Bridgnorth. From the glum faces of the CCG members sitting at the top table, they have no confidence at all that health outcomes will be better under the Future Fit regime they voted for this evening. They looked miserable and at times they looked scared.

They voted unanimously, and with no real discussion between CCG members, to go to public consultation with a ‘preferred option’ of closing the A&E, the Women’s and Children’s Centre, and acute care at Telford, and closing Planned Care at Shrewsbury. That was their preferred option, but not the preferred option from the 100 members of the public who were also in attendance. There was very little support for the top table’s option; muted applause for speakers who argued to keep the A&E at Telford and close it at Shrewsbury; and loud applause and cheers for the contributions calling for both A&Es, both hospitals, and for decent community services instead of the current cuts.

There were a few stunning evasions – and a few stunning admissions as well.

The evasions: in his introduction, Telford and Wrekin Accountable Officer David Evans worked hard to give the impression that Future Fit had been given a clean bill of health in an independent review carried out by KPMG. He devoted a single low-key sentence, in the middle of the presentation, to the great gaping holes identified by KPMG. David said ‘There were some minor points that it (the review) came up with: one was around the clarity around the funding availability and affordability and assurance around the proposed funding for the programme; one was around community models to address community and planned care…’

These are not, by any standards, ‘minor points’. The independent review actually said ‘It is essential that progress is made against each of these issues before the programme moves forward to public consultation and a decision-making business case’[1]. To describe these as ‘minor points’ is misleading in the extreme.

The Joint Committee has just voted to progress Future Fit when they haven’t a clue where the money is going to come from or whether or not the scheme is actually affordable. Frighteningly, hospital trust SaTH is talking in terms of a PFI-style deal, locking the NHS into an expensive 25 or 30 year contract – to pay for shiny new hospital buildings at the precise time that care is being moved out of hospitals into community settings. This makes no sense at all.

And the lack of solutions around community services is equally frightening. The review report said, ‘it is currently not yet clear how the local health economy will execute its community reconfiguration, nor how this will be funded’ – but this means that 30% of care is being moved out of acute hospital settings, when no one has any idea what will happen to those patients.

Those two facts alone mean that approval of Future Fit was a negligent decision. The independent review said it was essential to make progress on these things before public consultation takes place. That recommendation from the independent review was completely ignored.

The admissions were equally astonishing.

Health bosses have always claimed that closing an A&E and downgrading a hospital will miraculously solve staffing problems. This evening they changed their minds. Telford and Wrekin CCG member Geoff Braden commented on the ‘assumption’ that going to a single site would resolve the staffing issue, and asked ‘… what we need to do to assure is that the single site will provide us with a resolution’. Telford and Wrekin Accountable Officer David Evans replied ‘I don’t think moving to a single site necessarily resolves all the workforce problems’. He felt it would make it easier having staff in one place where they could support and mentor one another, but his main conclusion was ‘I think we need to look at the workforce model in a different way’ (without actually explaining what that was). Jo Leahy, at the end of the meeting, said ‘We’ve got to be really innovative about workforce’. Other Committee members shared concerns about the national shortage of consultants – and nobody expressed any belief that a single A&E or single acute site would end SaTH’s recruitment problems. In a two hour meeting, the claimed main reason for Future Fit disappeared in a puff of smoke.

The Committee recognised that Future Fit will put extra pressure on the ambulance service, and acknowledged that the ambulance service isn’t up to scratch now. It’s all right, though. Dr Jo Leahy, Chair of Telford and Wrekin CCG, explained ‘We’re going to require the ambulance service, including the Welsh ambulance service, to really up their game in terms of response times’. Meeting Chair Simon Brake commented that there were no plans to change the configuration of the ambulance service or the amount of finance they get. It’s hard to see how these improvements will come about. Sylvia Jones, a member of the public, commented on the recent two hour wait for an ambulance to attend a young man with head injuries following a motorbike accident. This is a service that is just not working. Wishful thinking will not resolve the problems with the ambulance service; it needs money.

And on Outpatient appointments and Diagnostics – who knows what’s happening, because the story keeps changing! SaTH’s December 2016 Outline Business Case states that Outpatients and Diagnostics will be available at both sites. Tonight, David Evans listed services to be offered at each site – and listed Outpatients and Diagnostics only at the Planned Care site. If he’s right, that means extraordinarily lengthy journeys for Shropshire patients to access very routine care. If he’s wrong, it’s a mistake that needs to be corrected.

We’ve always been told that Future Fit is about great care for everyone. Tonight, we heard the admission – for the first time in public – that there will be losers. David Evans summed up the debate by claiming a benefit for most people ‘while recognising of course that for some parts of the population there would be a disadvantage’. He went on to advise the Committee that ‘one of the founding principles was to try and make a decision based on the basis of the greatest good for the majority’. David Evans is completely wrong. The founding principles of the NHS are about comprehensive healthcare and universal healthcare – about all healthcare being available to all people. Tonight, David Evans reversed the ethos of the NHS, and CCG members voted with him. It’s no wonder that members of the public responded with real anger.

There were some powerful contributions from members of the public, including Councillor Julian Dean speaking for Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Defend Our NHS; Sylvia Jones from Clunton Parish Council; and Dr Julia Buckley, a Bridgnorth Councillor.

Councillor Julian Dean said, to cheers, that the current plans are like ‘driving into Mordor and all the wheels have come off your vehicle’. He listed everything that has gone missing from the original Future Fit plans for community care: urgent care centres around the county, now dropped; extra money for community services, now gone; a crisis for community hospitals; a crisis for the ambulance service; a crisis for Shropdoc.

Councillor Dean spoke too of the £135 million cuts to NHS spending in the local Sustainability and Transformation Plan. He made a really key point – that ‘people shouldn’t be left fighting over the scraps, whether it should be Telford or Shrewsbury, because it should of course be both’. He urged the Committee to ‘go back and fight for more money, and to get our MPs to do the same’. It was just not fair with elderly people in Shropshire and deprived people in Telford that our area got so little funding.

Sylvia Jones particularly highlighted the concerns of rural communities – including abandoning the plans for rural urgent care centres, the threats to community hospital beds, and to Minor Injuries Units. Independent Committee member Dr Tabitha Randell had spoken in glowing terms about the potential to use Midwife Led Units. Sylvia pointed out ‘MLUs would be wonderful if we had them but let’s not forget they’ve been closed for 6 months, and in the last few weeks two babies have been born without midwife supervision’. On Shropdoc, Sylvia said ‘Shropdoc is under threat because of underfunding. It’s a brilliant award winning service but you’re not funding it properly’. Again, there was massive applause and cheering.

Dr Julia Buckley was the final speaker of the evening. She too drew attention to the closure of MLUs, saying ‘It is disingenuous for you to tell us in this review that you rely on the outreach from those units when you separately will be asked if you should keep them closed in the future’. She called for the CCGs to be honest and transparent with the public. She pointed out an uncomfortable fact that no one else had mentioned: ‘You are working to the assumption that when the second A&E is downgraded that somehow 65% of A&E admissions will evaporate. That’s not realistic’.

There was one thing Dr Buckley said that drew probably the biggest cheer of the evening: ‘I’m not going to say it’s unfair and fight against other councillors… because who here could say that a life in one town is worth any more than a life in another town’. It’s a basic statement of principle – but there is a danger of this being forgotten. She added that consultation must include the option of retaining both A&Es, not as ‘no change’ but under a different structure.

After Thursday’s meeting, three things are clear:

  • Future Fit remains a desperately troubled project
  • The public does not support the decisions of health bosses
  • The fight for two A&Es, two hospital, and a properly funded NHS goes on

[1] Page 10 KPMG Independent Review, Appendix 2 of meeting paperwork

A video recording of the full meeting is here.