Cornishman Article January 2018

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Last January, we wrote “A New Year! Can we look forward with optimism?” Twelve months on, no progress has been made on transforming and improving local health care and the picture in Cornwall, is of a health system buckling under the strain of trying to meet demand.

Jeremy Hunt apologised this week to those who have to wait longer for their ‘non urgent’ operations, as beds are being freed up to cope with emergency care. Better that he apologised for starving the NHS of funds – yes, funding has gone up, but nothing like enough to keep up with an increasing and ageing population. He should be apologising for reducing staff wages in real terms, making recruitment harder and putting even more pressure on our brilliant front line staff;  for cutting 15,000 acute beds over 6 years and 2000 community beds over the last 2 years. To quote the Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine ‘We are in a storm of our own making’, i.e. the government’s making!

Our 6 Cornish MPs will not challenge their own government policy, preferring instead to issue bland assurances of their support for local services.

One aim of our GP Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in 2013 was to spearhead local decision making. In reality, the CCG appear to be in a stranglehold of centralised control by NHS England, driven by the huge debt built over years of under- funding, and are unwilling or unable to challenge constant top down decisions that do not fit with the needs of a rural area like Cornwall, surrounded by sea on three sides and served by one district general hospital.

During our 20 month period of writing this column, we have witnessed the attempted softening up of the Cornish public by our CCG into accepting closures of Community Hospital beds, reductions in and centralisation of services and potential future closures of many of our Minor Injury Units. To date, Penwith has seen no replacement of the closed beds at Edward Hain hospital, funding for and access to transport to hospitals is severely reduced, and waiting times for routine operations are increasing to balance the books. This hardly fits with improving the health and wellbeing of the people of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly. It is also a far cry from what people wanted in their responses to the 2016 survey, where access to services locally was a high priority.  Shamefully, during the recent publicity about a possible reduction in Cornish radiotherapy services, the GP Commissioning Group was totally silent.

Despite a consensus amongst researchers that reorganisations will not reduce the need for hospital beds, Cornwall’s plan hasn’t changed!  Prepare for more Crises!

450 words.

 

 Jan Williams and Jane Varker : Copyrighted to West Cornwall HealthWatch  : 7/1/2018