HAS CORNWALL BEEN FAILED BY WESTMINSTER ?
Monthly article December 2019
written this month by John Graver
Although West Cornwall HealthWatch is a completely non party-political organisation we would be failing in our duty if we did not give consideration to the effects that government policy has had on health, specifically in the far South West .
We all are aware that the NHS has been starved of cash. The last few years have seen the largest squeeze on its finances since its creation over 70 years ago. It is common knowledge that there are over 100,000 staff vacancies in the NHS, with nurse vacancies alone at 38000 and rising. In no small part due to the scrapping of nursing bursaries voted for by our MP in 2016. Despite this our fantastic staff who work in the NHS and in Social Care continue to provide a service far exceeding the resources at their disposal.
We are not surprised when the GP receptionist can only give an appointment in 2 weeks’ time, and we take it for granted that we will have a four hour wait in A&E. In October this year, 2199 patients spent over four hours waiting in A&E Treliske, far in excess of the government’s target, which was last met in 2015. A new term of “corridor ward “ is now used as patients are treated on trolleys waiting for ward beds . Bed occupancy for Cornwall is over 90%, above the national average. Meanwhile we have 14 good inpatients beds closed at Edward Hain Hospital.
We waited and waited for the Green Paper as to how the last government was proposing to fix our social-care system. Official figures for August highlight that patients fit to be discharged in Cornwall alone occupied 34 beds each day due to lack of social care provision at home. All of the main party manifestos have been released, and despite Mr Johnson promising on the steps of number 10 “to fix the crisis in Social Care once and for all”, only the Conservative Party has failed, unlike all other parties, to announce any long term strategy.
Going behind the headlines of NHS cash shortages, crumbling NHS infrastructure and constant reorganisation costing billions, there is a forgotten demon. Austerity has been the main plank of government financial control for a decade and it cannot be disputed that austerity has had a disproportionate effect on the poor and vulnerable. It can be argued that a decade of austerity has the greatest effect on children. Society and its leaders should be judged on how it treats its young.
A recent report by Shelter stated that over 100,000 children in England live in housing with poor sanitation and cold, cramped and damp conditions. It highlights the risk of severe ill-health, and disability increases by up to 25% during childhood and early adulthood. It is accepted that Asthma, Meningitis and mental health problems are more prevalent in such conditions and this is borne out by the dramatic rise in mental health problems amongst the young.
In Cornwall (2015), 16% of children lived in poverty. The Child Poverty Act 2010 targeted eradication of child poverty by 2020 with the poorest areas locally being parts of Penzance, Camborne and Redruth. According to Cornwall Council 60p has been cut in every pound of Government support for services since 2010. Despite the Council’s greatest efforts with dwindling resources it confirms that the 2020 target is likely to be missed by some considerable margin.
Austerity, deprivation and poor health are linked. They affect the weakest and most vulnerable, with West Cornwall being particularly hard hit, placing huge pressures on society and casting a shadow over our wellbeing.
Is there any wonder, then, that the NHS and social care systems are under such strain ? We should judge on past actions not future promises. Has Cornwall been failed by Westminster?
You decide ..………………..