Reinventing the wheel?

Saturday 31st May

So now we have it: Small really IS beautiful, local IS better, and the wholesale centralisation of services is NOT the answer.

The key messages which West Cornwall HealthWatch has been delivering for the past seventeen years have this week been reinforced by new NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens, and we welcome his words, which closely echo our own.

Simon Stevens declares that smaller local hospitals have a key role to play in caring for patients. He says that centralisation has gone too far, that initiatives such as the European Working Time Directive have jeopardised local services, that care - particularly for the elderly – needs 'remodelling' to integrate health and social care in providing both community care AND community hospital beds close to home. It is ironic that his announcement comes hot on the heels of the announcement that Poltair Hospital is to close, with the permanent loss of its inpatient beds, once alternative spaces across the area have been found for its outpatient clinics and outreach services.

We have consistently called for a new Integrated Care Centre in Penwith, which would incorporate under one roof all the services needed to support predominantly elderly people and which, crucially, would include inpatient beds for those who need them - because not everyone can be cared for at home, despite the aspirations of the 'Living Well' project. Now today we have Norman Lamb, the health minister, saying that small integrated hospitals are a really fundamental part of the government's vision.

So it seems that we in West Cornwall HealthWatch are entirely in tune with what both the NHS England boss and the government are now saying. We hope that all those entrusted with local decision-making will listen both to them and to us.