June 2016 Cornishman article
As our long awaited Cornish summer arrives, West Cornwall HealthWatch campaigners are reeling from shock after the publication of an independent review into our GP Clinical Commissioning Group (NHS Kernow) which cited comprehensive failings of both capacity and capability. This is alongside a potential debt of 62.5 million pounds.
Just to remind our readers, NHS Kernow was established on April 1st. 2013 to commission services with the aim of improving the health and wellbeing of patients, (that’s us folks!), across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
The rationale being that GPs understood their patients’ clinical needs and would bring decision making down to a ‘local level’.
Cornwall, is not the only area to be ‘in trouble’, as figures quoted suggest 33% of Commissioning Groups are already in deficit together with 86% of Acute Trusts. Indeed, we already know that the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) is proposing to carry a £21 million debt.
Because of this massive financial burden, the GP Commissioning Group now finds itself unable to make decisions without seeking permission from NHS England, (the national body). If NHS Kernow fails to make sufficient savings, it risks being taken into ‘special measures’, with even tighter control and decisions imposed. The serious threat of being taken over remains the ultimate sanction.
In effect, there will be greater centralization of decision- making away from Cornwall.
What this means for patients, we predict, are cuts to our services with precious little local consultation.
Many could be at risk including ‘Living Well ‘, Edward Hain’s 12 community beds, Home Care packages and others.
It’s long been argued by health campaigners and others that Cornwall’s funding is unfair. No account is taken of rurality, distance/transport difficulties, areas of deprivation and poverty, in-migration of older retirees and tourists’ use of local services.
This has resulted, we believe, in our Cornish health services being chronically underfunded for years. Indeed, we would argue that the present financial crisis in Cornwall is not one of overspend but of underfunding.
So, we understand the difficulty that GP Commissioners are facing, they truly are between a rock and a hard place. However, at the end of the day, they promoted the idea that GP Commissioning would be ‘good for us’ and asked for our public support.
They also promised to ensure that patient and public engagement would play a central role in the commissioning of services.
Our message to NHS Kernow, our local MPs and this government, is that the patients and the public want to be consulted before decisions are taken, after all this is what we were promised. The rhetoric was all about local decision-making. The reality sadly, is turning out to be the exact opposite.