Dear Calderdale Council Commission on health and social care,
In response to your open request for submissions to your Commission, I’d like to explain why I won’t be submitting anything or taking part in Commission events.
This is not because I’m apathetic, but because I have no confidence that your Commission has the remit, powers or disinterested membership to successfully carry out its task of eliciting the public’s views on the important question of what kind of NHS and social care we want in Calderdale.
Worse, I fear that the Commission has the potential to divert resources and energy away from the Adults Health and Social Care Scrutiny Panel, which – unlike the Commission – has the power to hold the NHS and social care chiefs to account, as well as the democratic mandate to examine what the best model of NHS and social care might be for Calderdale.
Because of this, I think the Calderdale Commission could do more harm than good.
I also think that the Commission’s aims are compromised by virtue of the fact that the Commission is made up of Councillors, who are significantly invested in the very system the Commission aims to investigate, critique and make recommendations about. This is because, unless I am mistaken, the Council is a commissioner of health and social care, and an assessor of people’s social care needs, with responsibility for making sure their needs are met.
As a health and social care commissioning partner with Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group, Calderdale Council is key to the Better Care Fund plans, which are closely tied in with the delivery of the Calderdale and Huddersfield Strategic Review proposals, in whatever shape or form they end up being presented to the public for consultation.
And through its Better Care Fund plans, the Council is already committed to a particular variety of health and social care integration, one based on New Labour’s Kaiser Beacons pilots that tested a cherry-picking private healthcare system practiced by the American company Kaiser Permanente.
In my view, this opens the Commission to the same charge of disingenuousness which Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group has admitted it’s liable to.
Further, I understand that in its role as commissioner of Public Health Services, the Council has said that it will re-procure services currently provided by the hospitals Trust, by requiring the Trust to “test the market” – in other words the Council will require the Trust to bid against other, private providers in a competitive tender process.
But national opinion polls have shown that most members of the public are opposed to this process of NHS privatisation/marketisation.
From talking with members of the public in Calderdale, while reporting on the campaign to Save Calderdale and Huddersfield Hospitals, and while taking part in that campaign, I’ve heard that many people in Calderdale are equally opposed and very worried about the fact that privatisation/marketisation of health and social care is obviously already gathering pace here.
A member of the public who attended the first meeting of the Commission has already noticed the lack of any challenge to received ideas about the Council’s Better Care Fund policies, and the marketisation of health and social care services that they assume.
In their view, the make up of the Commission and its narrow terms of reference make it unlikely that there will be any challenge to such received ideas, that have been passed down from central government.
Calling itself a People’s Commission when it is quite transparently a Council body raises doubts about what else the Commission might misrepresent.
In saying this, I’m not questioning the integrity of Commission members, but I am questioning their apparent lack of understanding of how weary the public is of spin. And calling a Council body a People’s Commission seems like a good example of spin.
I agree with the principle that people in Calderdale need to talk together about what kind of NHS and social care we want, but I’m very clear that the Calderdale Commission is not the way to do it.
As well as the reasons I’ve already outlined, it seems to me problematic that – unless I’m mistaken – the Chair has a track record in promoting the privatisation/marketisation of social care.
Whatever his competence as Chair, which I’m not questioning, I don’t think this kind of track record is appropriate when one of the massive questions that people in Calderdale are asking is, how can we stop the galloping privatisation of the NHS and social care that has been set in motion by the Health and Social Care Act and the Care Act?
I am publishing this as an open letter on the hyper-local news website, Upper Calder Valley Plain Speaker. I am happy to also publish any reply you might wish to make.
I am sorry to have to decline the open invitation to make a submission to the Commission, for the reasons I’ve outlined.
Member of the Calderdale public.