On 28 May representatives of Dewsbury Keep Our NHS Public and North Kirklees NHS Support Group presented a petition from 1,258 local people to Cllr Viv Kendrick, Chair of Kirklees Health and Wellbeing Board, at its monthly meeting.
Comprising 3 scrolls, with a combined length of over 18m, the petition called on the Health and Wellbeing Board to:
- not give contracts to irresponsible companies who have been found to have defrauded the Government or who have left patients with unsafe levels of health service provision
- consider the need for staff who work for private contractors to receive a living wage
- press NHS England and the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to accept these demands.
The petition reflects concerns about the privatisation of local health services and the shifting of money from NHS hospital services to the untried ‘Care Closer to Home’ strategy demanded by the Government, which aims to reduce hospital admissions by providing more care in the community.
One campaigner commented:
“To move wholesale to a policy whose success is unproven is rash to say the least. What ‘Care Closer to Home’ will look like is as yet unclear. Nor was it clear how the Health and Wellbeing Board would undertake the commissioning of such a comprehensive and complex service.”
On receiving the petition, Cllr Kendrick said she would normally have referred it to the appropriate Assistant Director as provided for in the Council constitution, but as the petition concerned NHS arrangements, she would refer it to the Chief Officers of the two local CCGs.
The campaigner said,
“Does this mean the Kirklees Health and Wellbeing Board does not see itself as having a role in commissioning decisions, leaving the Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees CCGs in control? If so, what is the role of the Health and Wellbeing Board in a decision of major significance for the future of local health provision?
“It is important we know, not least because the Government’s intention is to further fragment the healthcare system in England by developing clusters of local authorities under a series of Boards, like the Manchester experiment known as DevoManc.
“If Kirklees ends up as part of a Leeds cluster, do we have confidence that our Kirklees Health and Wellbeing Board will be actively promoting a local agenda, or will our councillors merely be part of a larger scale rubber-stamping exercise?”
Campaigners in Kirklees and Calderdale alike fear the introduction of fees and charging for services under the Care Closer to Home banner plus the erosion of pay and conditions of service for those on the front line.
North Kirklees NHS Support Group member C. Hyde said,
“We know from experience within the group, that marketisation in the NHS leads to reduced accountability. Greater lawyer involvement is incurred and commissioning support is a cost not directly relating to health service delivery. Campaigners strongly object to NHS marketisation costing taxpayers more, for delivering fewer services”.
Health and Wellbeing Boards were set up by the Health and Social Care Act 2012, as a forum where key leaders from the NHS and social care system work together. Among other things, it is responsible for the “Better Care Fund” – NHS funding that has been redirected to support ‘Care in the Community’ aka ‘Care Closer to Home’. This funding has been withdrawn from hospitals and transferred to Councils, in order to make up for savage central government cuts to Councils’ social care budgets.
The Kirklees Petition is relevant to Calderdale too.
Calderdale’s public services are being privatised and put out to competitive tender so that private companies can bid to run them – and not just for health and social care services.
The issues identified in the Kirklees petition are equally issues that Calderdale Council and Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group need to address, and Calderdale and Kirklees NHS campaigners will continue to work together on issues that affect the NHS and social care across the different areas.