#Calderdale Council Scrutiny Officer takes Save our A&Es campaigners for mushrooms

Today (12th August) Calderdale Council Adults Health and Social Care Scrutiny Panel (SP) will decide how to respond to the public petition that calls on the SP to:

  • Hold a formal enquiry into Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS providers’ proposals to close / downgrade one or both A&E departments in Halifax and Huddersfield and the associated NHS and social care reconfiguration proposals (“Right Care Right Time Right Place”)
  • Call in all 5 local NHS organisations to explain their proposals, their evidence base and how public, community groups’ and staff views have been sought, documented and used
  • Invite the public to take part and state their views

The Scrutiny Officer’s advice is that the SP should pass the buck to the so-called People’s Commission and refuse to act on the petition.

As the petition organiser, on behalf of the 118 petitioners, I ask the Scrutiny Panel to reject the Scrutiny Officer’s advice and agree to act on the petition.

Scrutiny Officer hasn’t reported any legal impediments to acting on petition

When we presented the petition to the SP at its first meeting, the SP accepted and noted it, but asked the Scrutiny Officer to investigate whether acting on it would in any way jeopardise the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee review of the formal commissioning proposals, scheduled for September, and any possible referral of the proposals to the Secretary of State.

The Scrutiny Officer’s advice to the 12th August SP meeting makes no mention of any such investigation or its outcome.

Why?

Two reasons present themselves: either he didn’t investigate this issue, in which case he has failed to act on the instructions of the SP; or he did and found that acting on the petition would not create any impediment to the JHOSC’s work, and for some reason sees fit to withhold this information.

Of course there could be other reasons.

I hope the SP meeting will get to the bottom of this question.

Passing the buck to the powerless Commission

Instead of answering the SP’s question, the Scrutiny Officer’s advice just says that the People’s Commission should act on the petition.

This is clearly impossible, since the People’s Commission has no powers to hold a formal enquiry or to call in the NHS organisations.

This is why the petitioners addressed their request to the Scrutiny Panel, which is the Council body with the statutory powers to hold the local NHS organisations to account in a formal process of enquiry.

The Scrutiny Officer’s advice is based on his assertion that,

“…Members of Council see the People’s Commission as the way in which they wish the health and social needs of Calderdale residents to be examined. It is suggested that the Adults Health and Social Care Scrutiny Panel should acknowledge this and receive updates on the work of the People’s Commission rather than instigating separate enquiries.”

This is a questionable assertion on at least two grounds.

One is that not all Councillors expected the so-called People’s Commission to end up with the terms of reference and membership that it has. Plain Speaker is aware that there is a gap between what at least some Councillors thought they were voting for, and what they got.

The second is that there was no suggestion to Councillors at any stage that I’m aware of, that the so-called People’s Commission should usurp the statutory functions of the Scrutiny Panel.

The Commission’s task of asking the public what kind of NHS and social care it wants is totally different from the Scrutiny Panel’s role of scrutinising the proposals of the Council’s NHS partners.

In my opinion, this distinction should remain clear.

This is why, on behalf of the petitioners, I ask the Scrutiny Panel to reject the Scrutiny Officer’s advice, and agree to act on the petition.

It is even more important now than it was when people signed the petition just a few weeks ago.

Calderdale Council’s Adults Health and Social Care Scrutiny Panel meets at 6pm in Halifax Town Hall, Tuesday 12th August.

You can read the Scrutiny Officer’s advice here (downloadable file: Relationship between Scrutiny Panel and the People’s Commission)

Posted from here.

2 thoughts on “#Calderdale Council Scrutiny Officer takes Save our A&Es campaigners for mushrooms

  1. Hi Jenny, I had my own doubts about how the People’s Commission would be viewed when it was set up, as it doesn’t have the statutory powers that Scrutiny does. However, in your article you make little mention of the joint scrutiny investigation that Calderdale and Kirklees has chosen to set up should major changes to health services be proposed. There will be members from both Calderdale and Kirklees Scrutiny panels on that and they will examine the proposals and report back. I am concerned however about the possible lack of scrutiny or public consultation on changes to social care. This will of course be covered by the People’s Commission but that shouldn’t prevent Scrutiny from also taking a close look at it.

    • Hi Adam, thanks for your comments. The reason the article doesn’t mention the joint scrutiny investigation much is because the whole reason for the petition is people’s feeling that if the Council had been really serious about voting to reject the Strategic Outline Case proposals and telling the NHS providers to withdraw them, it would use its powers through the Scrutiny Panel to get the local NHS organisations to explain the Right Care proposals clearly and in detail, so that if they turn out to be as bad as the Councillors thought when they rejected them, the SP has a chance of stopping them in their tracks before they go any further. This was the legal advice to campaigners. And of course there is always the other possibility that if the SP called in the NHS organisations to explain the Right Care proposals, this would reveal they are much better than the NHS organisations have been able to communicate to the public and then we could all go home and get on with our lives. As it is, if the Scrutiny Panel accepts the Scrutiny Officer’s advice and refuses to use its powers to take effective action on the full Council’s vote rejecting the SOC proposals and calling on the 3 NHS provider organisations to withdraw them, it looks as if the Council was simply grandstanding before the election without any commitment to acting on its vote. I don’t know if you’re aware that on Thursday the Clinical Commissioning Group is to ask its Governing Body to approve the immediate implementation of the Right Care community care system without any public consultation, and to delay the public consultation on the A&E closure and hospital cuts until after the major care in the community service change is complete? By this time the hospital cuts would be a foregone conclusion since the NHS Commissioners don’t have the money to run both the new community care system, which they’ve rebranded as “Care Closer to Home” and the existing hospital services. This makes the petitioners’ request for the SP to call in the 5 NHS organisations to explain their Right Care Proposals even more urgent and important, imo.