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

 

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