The Calderdale and Kirklees Joint Health Scrutiny Committee (JHSC) met on Wednesday 21 October, to find out what’s happening with the proposed hospital cuts and changes that are known as Right Care Right Time Right Place.
The meeting was like falling down Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole and arriving in time for the Lobster quadrille.
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you consult the public?
The recurring theme at the JHSC was: Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the Public Consultation dance?
Kirklees Councillor Robert Barraclough pleaded with the NHS organisations:
“We’ve been sat here now for nearly two years and you don’t seem to have got much further. Come on guys, you really need to get this nailed down.”
He might as well have saved his breath to cool his porridge. The Monitor rep told Councillors that the already twice- postponed public consultation might not take place in January, as planned.
In September, both Clinical Commissioning Groups agreed the public consultation couldn’t go ahead this autumn as planned, and rescheduled it to January 2016.
This was because, with the hospital Trust in deficit, the question of whether the hospitals are “sustainable” needs investigating.
At the JHSC meeting, Calderdale Cllr Malcolm James asked:
“How likely is it that public consultation will start in January 2016?”
The Monitor rep said that there is uncertainty about whether the Treasury and Department of Health will agree to cough up capital funding for the hospital service changes and for double running costs, while the Care Closer to Home system is set up. He continued:
“Some factors are beyond our control… We’ve started conversations with the Department of Health and the Treasury but can’t say when they will decide. If funding isn’t forthcoming, we can’t consult.
The public consultation is likely to be 90 days. This runs the risk of running into the purdah period for the local council elections. That needs to be put on the table now.”
Scrutiny Committee Councillors “need to up their game”
After the meeting Paul Cooney, Secretary of Huddersfield Keep Our NHS Public, said:
“I cannot stress enough how important the role of the Councillors on the Scrutiny Panel is and do feel that they need to up their game.”
The Scrutiny Committee’s job is to make sure that any proposed changes don’t damage the local NHS, and to tell the NHS organisations when they must consult the public about proposed changes. In this way, they have the power – and the duty to use that power, to protect the health services that are available for local people.
But they are failing to fulfill this duty.
They failed to ask about the Trust’s proposed “interim service changes” to the “configuration of Cardiology and Respiratory inpatient services and the Early Pregnancy Assessment and Emergency Gynaecology services.”
What is this about? It sounds important. The trust wants to change these key services without public consultation, as an “interim” measure. But we are none the wiser.
Councillors also failed to ask whether the proposed A&E – at whichever hospital ends up being recommended as the acute and emergency hospital – will be a full blue light A&E (a specialist emergency centre) or a downgraded A&E without the full range of acute and emergency services (an emergency centre). Both those possibilities have been suggested by the Clinical Commissioning Groups and there is no clarity about which is likely to be favoured.
The focus of all their scrutiny needs to be:
- What exactly are the proposed changes?
- And how will they affect local patients, family and friends and NHS staff?
Owen WIlliams, the CHFT Chief Executive, gestured in this direction when he said:
“The centre of this has to be the patient. The clinical case has been established for two years now and we need to make sure that we meet the timelines and consult.”
The JHSC Chair, Cllr Elizabeth Smaje, agreed:
“Patients need to be the centre of this, not the finance.”
All driven by money – defund, run down and privatise the NHS
But Janet Bertola, a member of the public who attended the JHSC meeting, dismissed these comments as lip service. She said:
“The whole thing is driven by money. It’s like Chomsky says, when the government wants to get rid of public services, it defunds them and runs them down, to make it easier to privatise them.
Simon Stevens, the NHS England boss who used to work for US health insurance company United Health, is the puppet master here, and in turn Jeremy Hunt is pulling his strings.”
As Our NHS editor Caroline Molloy points out, the government’s phony ‘unaffordability’ message is drummed in by government appointees from Monitor, NHS England, by men at the top of various bodies that rather dubiously claim to represent NHS interests, and by the luckless local hospital bosses and GP-turned managers left carrying the can.
“They queue up to warn of the unpalatable medicine we must swallow – whilst surprisingly silent on the government policies that are starving the NHS of funds whilst loading it with unnecessary costs.
The vice-chair of Conservative Health Dr Paul Charlson comments “I think charging is a good idea in principle (but) it would be political suicide for a party to introduce this. They could only really do it if there was a feeling in the country that health services were falling apart.”
Given this determined drive to make the NHS fall apart, it is unsurprising that the Right Care Right Time Right Place update report to the JHSC, shows that the proposal is an unholy mess.
For information about the following issues that Councillors raised at the JHSC, please follow these links (coming shortly):
- Plan for possible temporary closure of Calderdale A&E at short notice on grounds of safety
- Profiteering consultancy company Ernst and Young in charge of deciding the future of the hospitals Trust
- “Maximising the value of Calderdale Royal Hospital PFI contract” could mean shrinking Huddersfield Royal Infirmary