Cornishman Article August 2016

August has arrived, along with school-holidays, lots of tourists and West Cornwall HealthWatch’s new website.  Summer is a difficult time for local NHS services, but in today’s climate of austerity and financial restraint, this year looks set to be particularly challenging. The target to “improve the health and wellbeing of the local population and the quality of local health and care services, whilst at the same time delivering financial stability” will be an impossible task without seriously ‘reconfiguring’ our services.

 This leads us neatly into the plight of Edward Hain Hospital and the Living Well project.

 Edward Hain, following a fire safety inspection in February had its twelve inpatient beds closed with seven moved to Camborne-Redruth. Currently, Penwith has no community hospital beds.  To date, there have been fire assessments and recommendations about remedial work needed. It was reported in July that NHS Property Services would start the work soon with a reopening of beds in the autumn, but this now seems doubtful. New problems with the building have been discovered. Amazingly, if patients have to be evacuated on their beds, the beds would not fit through the doors. Why has it taken so long to discover this? The eventual outcome is looking more and more uncertain. Could this be the time to revisit the idea of a new community facility in Penwith, combining rehabilitation beds and reablement services?

The Living Well project, run by Age UK using volunteers, was piloted in Newquay before being rolled out in Penwith two years ago.  It has the laudable aim of putting the person at the centre of care, supporting them to live the lives they want. The objective is to improve patient health and well- being whilst reducing health costs. The original money for the project came from Age UK with the aim of the NHS taking over the funding. Age UK now require £9.5 million to deliver the service over the next five years. For this to become a reality, the health commissioners require a robust business case which could demonstrate cost savings in hospital admissions and attendances. GPs have supported the project locally and are promoting integrated multidisciplinary working across their practices

West Cornwall HealthWatch believe that to be the right approach, but question whether it should be delivered by an organisation outside the NHS with its own overheads and running costs. We also believe there is a question mark over the sustainability of using volunteers when many people are already acting as unpaid carers to relatives and friends.

Sadly, massive cuts in health and social care funding means that any money which goes to Age UK will be money that can’t be spent on overstretched NHS community services.