Thursday, 8 May 2014

38 Degrees to hold Public Meeting on threats to NHS Emergency Services

The Lancashire North 38 Degrees NHS Group will be holding a public meeting on the future of NHS Emergency Services on Wednesday 21 May 2014 from 7pm - 9pm upstairs in Lancaster Library in Market Square.

The main speaker will be Roger Thayne OBE, who was for many years until 2006 Chief Executive Officer of the Staffordshire Ambulance Service, and was author of a recent BBC World Tonight report highlighting the variability in lifesaving capabilities between different NHS Trust Ambulance Services. His talk will also cover Hospital Accident  & Emergency Services and GP out of hours services.

At the end of his talk Roger Thayne will conduct a Question and Answer session.

The Lancashire North 38 Degrees NHS Group monitors changes in the way health services are commissioned in the local area under the new organisational structures of the 2012 Health & Social Care Act, which opened up NHS services to commercial tendering.  38 Degrees aims to increase public awareness and knowledge of how the 2012 Health & Social Care Act is being implemented, and to contribute to the national and local debate about the future of the NHS. The group is not aligned to any political party.

Geography plays a huge part in the way healthcare is provided in the Morecambe Bay area. The great distances between the three hospitals in Barrow, Kendal and Lancaster mean that rationalisation (ie centralisation) of specialist services would make patient journeys very long and effective emergency ambulance cover harder to provide.

Currently ambulances can have to travel from Blackpool to answer calls in Lancaster and emergency beds have been blocked due to staff shortages. This means the 'patient flow' is slowed and ambulance queues form. The Morecambe Bay Hospital Trust is struggling between meeting targets and providing an adequate standard of care and elective surgery has been restricted as a result.

The local 38 Degrees group also monitors the progress of the Lancashire North Clinical Commissioning Group (LNCCG). CCGs are the new clinically led groups that include all of the GP groups in their geographical area.  Under the Health & Social Care Act 2012, the task of the CCGs is to buy healthcare services including:  Elective hospital care; Rehabilitation care; Urgent and emergency care; Most community health services and Mental health and learning disability services.

A recent report by the Health Services Journal found that 63% of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) incurred extra costs related to commissioning services as a result of new regulations.  At its March meeting the LNCCG's Chief Finance Officer, Keith Parkinson, reported that, on paper, their funding formula for next year corresponds to a shortfall of £14M (on an annual allocation of almost £200M).

However these basic challenges are complicated by organisational and political factors. The Hospital Trust covers the three Morecambe Bay hospitals, but under the 2012 Health & Social Care Act the Lancashire North CCG has only the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI)  in its area, so that the Hospital Trust has to deal with more than one CCG.

Also each of the three hospitals is in a constituency represented in Parliament by MPs of three different parties. This can lead to a ‘defend my patch’ tug-of-war.  Currently  S. Lakes MP Tim Farron (Lib Dem) is spearheading a campaign to save Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal from being ‘gifted to a social enterprise’ and having its services transferred to Lancaster. Meanwhile Lunesdale MP David Morris (Conservative) said he would welcome such investment at the RLI and Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock (Labour) said “The truth is we need three vibrant hospitals in the area.” (See Westmorland Gazette 4.4.14)

Last week the government  accepted an amendment, originally the work of 38 Degrees lawyers, to the hospital closure clause of the Care Billl in the House of Lords.  Without this amendment the hospital closure clause would have given the government new powers to close any hospital in England, even if local doctors were against it.

38 Degrees are asking people who have any concerns about changes taking place to local health and social care services in North Lancashire or South Cumbria, or if you want to find out more about what the group and what it does to please come along to the meeting on 21 May (see top).

Fopr more about 38 Degrees and its campaigns visit http://www.38degrees.org.uk/

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