Labour members along with other health campaigners all over Cornwall took a very active part in the recent meetings to discuss the draft Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) for Cornwall) recently published by our Health Bodies and Council and supposedly designed to transform our Health and Social Care services (as well as save £264m).
In all, well over 1,000 members of the public attended these meetings, many of which were very lively. The idea was that we would spend most of the time discussing different parts of the STP and telling them what we liked and what we didn’t. That didn’t work. At almost every meeting though, many people wanted to challenge the panels at a more general level. Comments were often angry and challenging. Typically:-
- Many people thought the meetings were just going through the motions – that decisions had already been taken and would not be changed now.
- It’s a chaotic, undemocratic government scheme which will serve only to break up the NHS and leave the bits to be snapped up by the Private Sector .
- There isn’t enough detail for the public to comment properly. The meetings and the linked paper survey are like asking us to sign a contract without seeing the small print.
- There is indeed plenty of room to improve our health and social care but without more money – not £264m of cuts – the plans are just wishy-washy pipe dreams. Almost every professional health body has called for more investment as has Tory Sarah Wollaston who chairs the Commons Health Select committee.
- The system is already stretched to breaking point. No-one sees any sense in reducing the number of Community Hospitals and beds when Treliske is already overfull of patients with no clinical need to be in an acute hospital but nowhere safe to go to continue their recovery. We need more beds, not less, certainly until a more robust, better funded social care system is in place. From Bude to Penzance, from Saltash to Falmouth, it was clear that every community sets huge value on its local hospital.
These are simply a selection of comments which seem to have been raised on a number of occasions around Cornwall. Of course, not everyone was able (or wanted) to speak in the main meetings and many people did seem to take part in those smaller group discussions about different parts of the STP which eventually managed to happen. My impression is that these were generally considered and helpful comments but broadly continued the theme that none of the aspirations can be realised without funding.
It was some reassurance to hear from Dr Iain Chorlton (Chair of the Clinical Commissioning Group) in response to a question from the floor (in Bude) that new services would be put in place before existing ones were cut
In several places, the speakers were challenged to reject the pressures put on them by Government and to acknowledge that the STP is unachievable without more money. They preferred to say that, as professionals, they have to work within the resources given to them but that everyone should write to their MP.
Notes of all these meetings and the replies to the survey will now be collated into a report which they hope to publish by 20th March which will lead to further consultation and to decisions on what they are actually going to do. The Council’s Scrutiny Committee has set up a special sub-committee to take evidence and views and we await detail of how we can input to that.
Our views are clear and were well-expressed by the many members and others who attended the meetings. We’ll see if they take notice.
Photo: Falmouth Packet Uncertain Future for Falmouth Hospital published 18 January 2017