The Government says it’s ‘liberating the NHS’. That’s liberating the NHS of adequate funding and a workable structure, maybe. Locally, we’ve got an NHS that’s sliding deeper and deeper into crisis. Health bosses have gone to war with one another, as they try to shift the blame and the cuts onto someone else. Who loses? We do.
So what goes on?
Shropshire and Telford Hospital Trust runs the PRH and the Royal Shrewsbury. They finished the last financial year £4 million in deficit and had to be bailed out by the NHS nationally. In March, hospital bosses refused to set a budget for the new financial year from 1st April – because of a £6.2 million gap between what patients need and the income the organisation is expecting to get. Their financial crisis explains why they want to close one of our two A&Es, and turn one of the two District General Hospitals into a local community hospital instead. Neat way of saving money, that. Continue reading
Private companies exist to make a profit for their shareholders. The NHS exists to keep people healthy and look after us when we’re sick. When the two get entangled, the NHS tends to lose out.
The anti-flu drugs Tamiflu and Relenza have been in the news in the last day or two – for all the wrong reasons. This is a cautionary tale!
The attached invite is for the official consultation events for ‘Future Fit’, the programme that’s about slashing NHS spending, getting rid of one of the two A&Es and running down services at the hospital that loses the A&E.
We should do everything we can to get to these events, and to have our say. Note that you need to sign up in advance – consider doing this now!
The first set of meetings is about ‘shaping engagement’ and we should obviously be arguing for maximum public engagement – not just through very small established groups, but with well-advertised open public meetings across the area, maximum opportunities for the public to write in with their views, absolute transparency about feedback etc. This should happen before the ‘preferred option’ is finalised, otherwise we end up ‘consulting’ on something that is already a done deal.
The second set of meetings is about specific strands of healthcare – great if you have prior knowledge or interest of a particular area, but don’t be put off from going if you haven’t. We’re all health service users, and we all have a contribution to make.
Our ‘lines in the sand’ will be very obvious points of principle. We have no problem with changes in the NHS, but we oppose cuts, we oppose worse services, and we oppose worse access to services. Cuts are being made, and there is a public right to know this. Nothing – including the A&E – should be closed down until there is very clearly an alternative service of equal quality in place. Hospital beds and hospital services can’t be replaced by ‘virtual hospitals’ (community services) unless there is enough money put in to make sure that these replacements will work. Changes to local NHS care should be about the creation of an integrated health and social care system and based on a thorough going review of all existing services – and ‘Future Fit’ falls far short of this. We’re opposed to privatisation of services, because this leads to fragmentation, competition instead of collaboration, and health services that are run on the basis of profit not human need.
Please let Gill know if you are attending any of these events.
Well, we’ve got nothing to worry about. Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt visited Telford in February 2014 and was challenged about the possible closure of one of our two local A&E Departments. Jeremy Hunt said, “We commit to A&E on both sites and there are no plans to change that.” So there you have it. We can sleep easy in our beds.
If this is true, the fears for our A&Es – and the hospitals that go with them – are easily solved. The Chief Executives of the acute hospital trust and of the Clinical Commissioning Groups that buy services can make a straightforward commitment. They can pledge that there will be no closure or downgrading of the A&E departments at Telford or Shrewsbury, and no closure or downgrading of the Princess Royal Hospital or the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.
What’s Really Happening
Away from the ‘everything’s fine’ world of Jeremy Hunt, we’re heading quickly for the loss of an A&E department. We currently have two A&Es: one at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, and the other at the Princess Royal Hospital, in Telford. Back in August 2013, Peter Herring – Chief Executive of both hospitals – said that one of the A&Es was likely to close, and that ‘providing specialist health services, including accident and emergency and intensive care, at both hospitals was unrealistic’. The acute trust (the organisation running the two hospitals) is in financial crisis. They’ve just been bailed out to the tune of £4 million by the NHS nationally, because they ended the financial year in serious deficit. Closing down an A&E – or even better, one of your District General Hospitals – is a great way of saving a lot of money.