Press Release: “Trust me, I’m a politician”

Why NHS campaigners are launching their own manifesto: Manifesto for our Health Service

It’s election time again, and Parliamentary candidates from all parties claim that the NHS is safe with them.

In Shropshire, we’re entitled to be cynical. Our hospitals are going bust, with the Royal Shrewsbury and the Princess Royal between them borrowing £12 million in the last year just to keep the doors open1. We face the loss of one of our A&Es and one of our acute hospitals – as part of the ‘Future Fit’ plans that the clinical experts in the West Midlands say are risky and not evidence based2. The ambulance service is catastrophically under-funded and slipping further and further away from meeting national response time targets for 999 calls3. The future of our community hospitals remains uncertain, with no clear commitments around urgent care provision in rural areas, and our Minor Injuries Units threatened with closure4.

Privatisation is steadily eroding public ownership and accountability, with the part-privatisation of services including audiology, dermatology, optometry and pain management. Private companies in Shropshire also now run GP practices, Walk In Centres and the new Urgent Care Centre that has replaced part of A&E at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital5. In an NHS run on free market lines, every bit of privatisation undermines the viability of NHS providers.

We need to know what our wannabe politicians think – not just sitting MPs, but every Parliamentary candidate in Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin. That’s why, in Shropshire Defend Our NHS, we’ve decided to ask them. We’ll be writing to them with our own manifesto6our outline of the minimum conditions required to keep an NHS that’s fit for purpose. We reserve the right to publish their responses!

Joyce Brand, speaking for Shropshire Defend Our NHS, said:

“With a general election coming up, we want to put our politicians on the spot. They can all say ‘Trust me, the NHS is safe’ – but do they actually mean it? Will they fight to keep our A&E open? Will they stop the closure of one of our local acute hospitals, Shrewsbury or Telford? Will they stand up to party leaders who demand more cuts and more privatisation?  We want to know. That’s why our members will be contacting all Parliamentary candidates locally to find out if they’ll really defend the NHS, or if it’s all hot air. We’ll be very happy to publicise the results”.

Notes to Editors

  1. SaTH’s predicted financial performance for 2014/15 is recorded in the minutes of February’s Board meeting (‘Financial Performance’ page 9): http://www.sath.nhs.uk/Library/Documents/trust_board/2015trustboard/150316-March/150326_02.pdf . This shows an anticipated end of year deficit of £12.205 million. The financial crisis continues. The SaTH 2015/16 budget is here: http://www.sath.nhs.uk/Library/Documents/trust_board/2015trustboard/150316-March/150326_04.pdf . This sets a budget for the coming year that assumes an £18.2 million deficit, and seeks recurrent expenditure savings amounting to £12.3 million.
  2. The West Midlands Clinical Senate has carried out a detailed review of local ‘Future Fit’ proposals, reporting in January 2015. The report is attached. The Senate is the high level clinical body appointed by NHS England to oversee NHS work in the West Midlands. The clinical experts are really quite scathing; for example, noting ‘Some of the assumptions upon which the proposal was based are novel and the causal relationships asserted are not established through published studies or experience of successful reconfigurations and service/pathway modernisations’ (Review report, page 6), and commenting on their ‘concerns regarding the level of potential clinical and financial risk’ (Review report, page 18). The lack of evidence for the Future Fit proposals is highlighted again and again. The report has not been publicised by Shropshire CCG, Telford and Wrekin CCG, or the Future Fit Programme Board.
  3. Shropshire CCG’s report on ambulance response times is here (in the paperwork for Shropshire Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee, page 17 onwards): http://shropshire.gov.uk/committee-services/documents/g2781/Public%20reports%20pack%2024th-Oct-2014%2010.00%20Health%20and%20Adult%20Social%20Care%20Scrutiny%20Committee.pdf?T=10
    Other data on ambulance response times are available on request.
  4. The lack of clarity around community hospital provision and urgent care provision in rural areas is noted in a second external peer review, this recent ‘OGC Gateway’ paper (February 2015): http://nhsfuturefit.org/key-documents/board-papers/72-150304-gateway-report-and-action-plan/file. The gateway report highlights the major gaps in the current Future Fit proposals on pages 6 to 7: “There is also concern that the focus of the Programme and the outputs to date may be somewhat narrow at this stage, in that they focus mainly on acute hospital services and buildings, and that further work is required in the following areas: • defining the model for rural urgent care centres, their number and location • clarifying the future role of community hospitals, including the development of local planned care centres • developing models for community and primary care services that will be needed to support new service models • developing plans for urgent care, community care and primary care in Powys We heard that a second Future Fit Programme is planned to develop proposals for community and primary care. This programme is not yet scoped and the governance arrangements are not confirmed. We also heard about the need to connect effectively with other initiatives such as the Better Care Fund, service change in Powys and other neighbouring communities”. Our concern in Shropshire Defend Our NHS is that Future Fit plans are now about closing down acute hospital provision in order to cut costs, while the wider areas of NHS provision are overlooked.
  5. We are not confident that we know the full extent of privatisation of NHS services in Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin. We are aware, however, of the following private providers:
    Audiology: SpecSavers and Regional Hearing Specialists (RHS, parent companies Bloom and Widex)
    Dermatology: St Michael’s Clinic, Shrewsbury
    Optometry: ‘The Practice’ and Vanguard Healthcare
    Pain management: Pain Management Solutions
    GP Practices: ‘The Practice’
    Walk In Centres: Malling Health
    Urgent Care Centre at the Royal Shrewsbury: Malling Health
    A regional contract to run PET CT scans run PET CT scans across Staffordshire, Cheshire, Shropshire and Lancashire has recently been awarded to private company Alliance Medical, despite a rival bid from a consortium of NHS providers being £7 million cheaper

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