Friday, 3 May 2013

Saving NHS services: March & Rally, plus a 38 Degrees Public Meeting and an NHS Consultation


On Saturday 4 May the annual Lancaster & Morecambe TUC March and Rally will be marching to protest proposed cuts to local NHS services and all who are concerned with this issue are invited to join in,  assembling in Dalton Square at 11.30am to march at noon with music and banners, followed by a rally and speakers from 1pm.

The new local Clinical Commissioning Group is holding public consultations over the next few days and NHS campaign group 38 Degrees plans a public meeting in the Lancaster Library on Thursday evening (see details below). If you use or are thinking you might eventually require National Health Services it is time to put your oar in, or face ending up in an unsavoury place without one.

TUC condemns health profiteering
The North West TUC has condemned the huge private profits extracted from PFI deals that have brought the NHS to its current financial crisis and plans an active campaign to combat to any further privatisation and dismantling of the NHS, and demands the repeal of the Health and Social Care Act.
Over 200 parliamentarians (MPs or Lords) have recent past or present financial links to private companies involved in healthcare and all were allowed to vote on the Health and Social Care bill, turning it into an Act.

System failures at A&E as finances critical
The budget for the Morecambe Bay NHS Hospital Trust at the start of the  financial year 2012/13 was £245m.  The trust had a target through the government’s Cost Improvement Programme (CUT) to save £18m in 2012/13 and another £18m in 2013/14.  However by Autumn 2011 the programme was in disarray as it became apparent that records had been manipulated in an attempt to conceal a series of avoidable deaths at Barrow General maternity unit. Administrative failures meant that patients areawide were not recalled for necessary checks and the state of Lancaster A&E among other issues of very grave concern led to a damning report and sanctions by the Care Quality Commission, the forced 'resignation' of several of the trust's board members and the Hospital Trust being placed in the temporary care of Monitor, the independent NHS regulator.

Local NHS must save over 10% off this year's budget
In 2012/13 the Hospital Trust had to address some of its worst failings and fell far behind in its savings (cuts) programme. This financial year (2013/14) the trust must find £30m worth of savings  – cutting more than 10% of its budget. The new Chair of the trust has confirmed that this will result in job losses and that in terms of public health services ‘nothing was ruled in, nothing was ruled out’.  Over 250 job losses are in the pipeline and critical and urgent health services across the whole trust are under threat from proposals to cut them or move them out of the area. We are hearing from central government now of new charges proposed, initially for hospital meals and GP home visits. The Conservatives pre-election manifest pledged that there would be no cuts to the NHS budget, but in Lancaster & Morecambe the cuts are visible and condemned by the Royal College of Nursing.

Disgraced former CEO still getting £150,000 salary
Tony Halsall, the Trust's then Chief Executive was forced to step down in February 2012 and has been replaced - but, as the Lancaster Guardian recently reported,  he will continue to be paid his £150,000 a year salary until October 2013 and continues to receive benefits including a lease car and the costs of career management advice up to £5,000.

New Clinical Commissioning Group Takes Over
The new Health and Social Care Act has radically changed the structure of the NHS in a reorganisation costing £3.5bn to date.  A new NHS Lancashire North Care Commissioning Group (CCG) has been created. Made up of 13 GP practices it covers a population of approximately 170,000 people in Lancaster, Morecambe, Carnforth and Garstang. It is responsible for commissioning (buying) healthcare for the people of Lancashire North.

Local Consultation Dates
Along with other local NHS organisations including Lancashire North Clinical Commissioning Group and Cumbria Clinical Commissioning  the CCG is carrying out a review of local health services with the comforting title of  'Better care, together’.  Their consultation bus has been calling in a local venues and is due at the Festival Market, Morecambe on Thursday 9th May from 11am -3pm. They will also be at St Nicholas Arcade, Lancaster on Wednesday 15th May, from 11am-3pm and would like to hear your views.

You are also invited to contact your GP surgery to find out if they have a Patient Participation Group to which you can contribute your views.

City Council opposes axing of local Dementia services
The City Council has called on the Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust to reverse its recent decision to close Morecambe's Altham Meadows Dementia Centre (see story). The Care Trust has offered two options for addressing dementia community and inpatient services. The first proposed a single site in Blackpool with 'extensive community services'. Lately it has favoured a central Lancashire site, in Bolton or Blackburn. For many elderly people and their elderly partners, relatives and  friends who love and care for them these might as well be in the Congo as far as accessibility and maintaining regular contact is concerned.  But as one of the the most vulnerable social groups, least able to organise and protest, they make an easier target.

Patients who are admitted to hospital needing treatment for illness or accident who also suffer from dementia are difficult to care for adequately and humanely and inevitably deteriorate further on mainstream wards  without appropriate support and where staffing is already overstretched, or when removed to strange units far from the familiar faces.  There are currently 17,607 people aged 65 and over in Lancashire with dementia and at least 317 people with dementia in Lancashire under the age of 65. Numbers are expected to increase to 25,611 (by 2025), a projected increase of nearly 50%.  Yet NHS Lancashire argues evidence shows there is a clear reduction in the need for specialist dementia inpatient beds and wishes to withdraw dementia services into a single central Lancashire site.

The County Asylum (revisited)
It took 20 years to dismantle the old regional mental asylums with their systemic abuses. The need for local  services that enabled people to remain in their home communities underpinned the philosophy of the Care in the Community reforms of the 1980s and 90s. However no government has addressed the gaps between Social Care and Health Care that can leave vulnerable and chronically ill people isolated.  If you have a long term illness, such as unstable diabetes or advanced Crohn's Disease, or dementia, or cancer, does the fact that you need help with food preparation or personal care count as a social or a nursing need? Or does it simply depend on where you are? Social Services home care is delivered by private agencies, usually with a high turnover of employees on minimum wage zero-hours contracts. Many do it well and many simply must do it. A high proportion of disabled, chronically ill and / or frail elderly people must pay £11 an hour for such minimalist home care services, which may be their sole human contact, or do without. Coping with a succession of different carers to whom everything must be re-explained.  The CCG has suggested that it can tackle this issue although it is as yet unclear how will be organised, delivered or paid for.

Pensioners facing home care crisis
Care in the home faces further cuts, and the Lancaster District Pensioners’ Campaign Group (LDPCG) has condemned the government’s plan to reform social care funding saying that the system is dogged by means-testing, a postcode lottery of charges, a rationing of services and poor standards, and that it does not have sufficient funding to tackle the problems that pensioners face. The Lancaster District Pensioners' Campaign Group can be contacted by emailing: mejnlancs@yahoo.co.uk  or tel:  01524 61585.

The Crow Road
There have also been discussions about centralising other hospital services, such as Coronary Care and Maternity. The impressive speeds at which it has been proposed that an ambulance carrying a patient in cardiac crisis can travel between Lancaster / Morecambe and Kendal or Preston makes one wonder why anyone ever even thought of suggesting a Link Road.  Nothing is ruled out.

38 Degrees Lancashire NHS Campaign Public Meeting in Lancaster
Campaign group 38 Degrees is holding a Public Meeting in Lancaster Library next Thursday, 9 May, from 7-9pm to discuss how the group will follow on from its work petitioning the Lancashire North CCG to protect our NHS. Anyone who is part of or interested in in joining the campaign is welcome. If you would like to like to join the contact list to find out about future local NHS actions please contact Tim by email at tim.snashall@gmail.com.

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