West cornwall Healthwatch year 2014/15

Secretary's Report:
In the eighteen years of our existence, I don’t think we have ever felt so overwhelmed and despondent at the state of the NHS in west Cornwall as we do at the moment.  The extent of crisis and the rate of change is such that we are left at the end of our committee meetings with our heads reeling and with cries of despair: “what can we do?”

Of course, WE can’t do very much at all.  We have amassed much expertise over the years, and we know a great deal about what is happening.  We are in regular contact with the ‘key players’ in the NHS, whether that be the clinical commissioning group, RCHT, PCH, GPs and all the rest of them. 
We are also of course very much in touch with our communities, and we listen to the experiences of local people and take up their comments and views. We write letters and we ask questions.  We research and we ultimately develop our own ideas about what would work and what is best.  We try to ensure that the community knows what is going on.  Through it all we remain avowedly independent, and without political affiliation.  But we have no power, no statutory rights, and no-one has to take any notice of us – although of course they should!  We keep on going, because we must, because we know (modestly) that we are right, and because someone has
to say what the community is thinking,

So, in the past twelve months, we have met as a committee thirteen times (average attendance 8.6 members), as well as other sub-group meetings.  Our agenda items have been wide-ranging, including issues such as the Dementia Liaison Nurse at WCH, the EIS, local mental health centres, unsupported discharges and PenCHLARC research projects.  Anyone interested can visit our website and read up the jottings from each
committee meeting.

As a committee we have met with Steve Jenkin (PCH) twice, Debbie Pritchard (healthwatch cornwall), Andrew Abbott (NHSK), Tracey Roose (Age UK) and Colin Quick (Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust). 

Members have attended Stakeholder Events for Poltair, Board meetings of both RCHT and NHSK, and meetings
about Out of Hours and ‘Living Well’; we also attend local Patient Participation Groups, and the West Cornwall Hospital Community Forum. 

We have submitted press releases, and been seen in brief television interviews as well as heard on Radio Cornwall. 

Understandably, much of our time has been spent on Poltair and the aftermath of its planned closure in
April.  Our dreams of a new Integrated Care Centre here at St Clare, whilst popular with many, did not find favour
with those making the decisions.  We are left with a deficit of much-needed community hospital beds, and continued uncertainty about where the clinics and therapies provided at Poltair are going to be farmed out.  The whole process, from proposals to stakeholder events and implementation, has been rather a mess, and we are not impressed.

The area of outsourcing and compulsory tendering – popularly known as privatisation – has continued apace
during the year.  We lament the decision to give RCHT’s hotel services to MITIE, whose attempts at delivering these services have been anything but ‘mighty’.  Now we are faced with the possible outsourcing of IT, sterile services and pathology.  Ironic that when West Cornwalll HealthWatch was first born, our inaugural chairman came to our attention at a public meeitng in St Johns Hall on the issue of losing the Path Lab at West Cornwall Hospital.  We are fortunate that our present Chair, Jane, is an expert on such matters, having run that Path Lab!  Now we’re faced with losing pathology from Cornwall altogether!  Outsourcing of so much elective surgery to Duchy Hospital, at the expense of SMH and RCHT, tendering for Children’s Services…. what will be next? 

We have been watching the unfolding saga over Out Of Hours with interest.  Our concerns, now that the preferred bidder has been chosen, are partly over the possible conflict of interest between a consortium of GPs as
shareholders and a commissioning group of GPs as contractors; and partly over the 111 service which is not an effective gatekeeper of these services. 

St Michaels Hospital in Hayle is not really ‘out of the woods’ yet, despite some public assurances.  It faces threats from the private sector, and from a diminishing RCHT budget which will see funds diverted into the community making it increasingly difficult for a struggling acute trust to justify maintaining three sites. 

And, whilst we applaud the commitment and effort of volunteers across the county in supporting their communities, we worry about the growing dependence on the voluntary sector to ‘pick up the pieces’ left by serious underfunding and now significant cuts in funding.  We are indeed troubled about the future of
health and care provision in the future – and at a time when we are all getting older!

So you will understand why we at times feel overwhelmed by the size of the task confronting us.  We just ask the community to continue to support us – as it has done ever since 1996 – and to keep in touch with us.  We in turn will continue to do our best to support our community’s desire to maintain and enhance NHS provision, in the
best way we know – through West Cornwall HealthWatch.  

In response to this report presented at the AGM, Cllr Jim McKenna encouraged West Cornwall HealthWatch to 'keep up the good work'; and Rik Evans commended West Cornwall HealthWatch as being 'tremendous for a group of this size' and 'punching above its weight'.  
We do indeed have every intention of keeping up the work, and punching as hard as we can!


This was held on Friday March 6th 2015, with guest speaker: Rik Evans (Health campaigner with over 25 years' experience of the NHS, and a former Non Executive Director of RCHT).  Rik spoke passionately about the threats to our beloved NHS from continual expensive reorganisations, compulsory competitive tendering and the resulting fragmentation of service provision.  He answered a range of questions from the audience, in a good-natured atmosphere which revealed great unity of opinion and purpose between all those present.