Welcome to North Tyneside Council….the lights are on, but is there anyone at home?

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Ever had that feeling that you’ve asked someone a crucially important question (one which means the difference between life and death), and you’ve been fobbed off with nebulous platitudes of empty nothingness? The response from Cllr Margaret Hall (Chair, North Tyneside Council Health and Wellbeing Board) to last weeks formal question from Keep Our NHS Public North East was totally underwhelming.
Two years ago, in March 2018, North Tyneside Councillors unanimously and impressively passed the motion that “we agree to oppose any proposal to implement the delivery of healthcare in North Tyneside via an ACO / ICS, a project which in North Tyneside CCGs own report was stated to be high risk”. (1)
In North Tyneside, we clearly had a Council to be proud of; a positive force to be reckoned with in standing up against NHS England’s and local CCG’s plans to railroad through a health system which will ultimately lead to increased privatisation and the demise of the NHS. This system, originally known as “Accountable Care” and subsequently rebranded as “Integrated Care Systems”, is imported from the United States where healthcare is privatised, underpinned by health insurance, and is definitely NOT equitable, accountable, or available to all in need.
So, fastforwarding to 2020, where are we now? Sadly, it seems, in downward spiral. Over the intervening months, KONPNE became increasingly alarmed by a number of reports in Council minutes which, seemingly, indicated a softening of approach and a warming to the demands of NHS England and the local CCG.
At the full Council meeting on 16th January 2020 (2), Dr Helen Groom, retired GP, local resident and member of KONPNE formally asked the following two questions on behalf of Keep Our NHS Public North East:
Initial question: “What evidence does North Tyneside Council have that members have opposed or even raised objections to the ICS? In becoming part of the ICS, what safeguards have you obtained on behalf of North Tyneside residents to ensure services will not be privatised?”
Supplementary question: “Given that North Tyneside Council appear to be in equal partnership with North Tyneside CCG in developing the Integrated Care System in the borough, what risk assessments have been carried out specifically by North Tyneside officers with regards to the Integrated Care System and the possibility of this developing into a private health system which is underpinned by private health insurance?”
Given growing concerns about Council decision-making, KONPNE anticipated a certain amount of gloss, but the reply from Cllr Margaret Hall, on behalf of North Tyneside Council, was astonishing. In a prepared response, Cllr Hall stated publicly that “there is no need to oppose or object to the ICS, as there are no proposed changes to services” (not yet, Margaret, but there is an urgent need for you to do more reading around the subject to see where the ICS is heading…and, whilst you’re at it, also check out your own Labour Party’s policy: “We will stop Tory plans to further entrench the private sector delivery of health care under the cover of integration plans set out in the NHS Long Term Plan” (3)
Additionally, seemingly unfazed by her stance and in response to our second question, Cllr Hall went on to surprise the Chamber by stating “There is no way that North Tyneside Council would agree to privatisation in North Tyneside” (err, Margaret, just down the road at North Tyneside General Hospital, all of your “Urgent Care” and “Out of Hours” services are now privatised, and GPs throughout the Borough are scratching their heads and needing to discuss with patients private options following cuts to specific treatments that were up until recently available on the NHS).
We are unsure if this response by North Tyneside Council represents a head in the clouds (“don’t understand”) stance, or if it signifies a head in the sand (“don’t want to understand”) stance but, whichever, there is an acute need for the head to re-engage with reality.  Whilst, no doubt, some North Tyneside Councillors are still willing to stand up and be counted regarding our NHS, we suggest that others need to see the bigger picture and not be taken in by the lengthy documents, smoke, mirrors and gloss offered by senior CCG officers. There is no excuse for this seemingly lack of insight by Councillors – much has been discussed locally and nationally, both within and outwith political parties and, together with many academics, Professor Allyson Pollock (Newcastle University) has researched and reported widely on the methodology strategically employed by the Government regarding NHS privatisation. (4)
The building blocks are in place and now that we have a Tory government for at least 5 years, so they have the political means to complete the privatisation of the NHS. Unlike those working in the CCG who are paid to carry out policy as dictated by the Government, our elected representatives on local Councils are the only piece of democratic accountability in the CCGs “Integrated Care System”. As such, it is CRUCIAL that Councillors hold firm in fighting against the covert introduction of cuts and privatisation, and do not passively collude with the political decision to dismantle our NHS.  The people of the North East are placing our trust in our elected Councillors to continue to stand up for a fully funded, publicly owned and publicly provided National Health Service, which is available to all on the basis of need and NOT the ability to pay. 
Dr Groom said after the meeting: “It remains our great concern that North Tyneside Council appear to have done a U turn and ridden roughshod over a Council motion unanimously passed two years previously, and have become complicit in the CCGs plans. Members of KONPNE were astonished by the response from Cllr Hall on behalf of North Tyneside Council; we will, of course, be taking this further, as we still require full and respectful responses to our concerns”.
Jude Letham, Co-ordinator, “Keep Our NHS Public North East” said: “Our group has been in existence for over ten years, and is made up of members of the public, including doctors and nurses – many live and work in North Tyneside. We believe in a publicly provided health service, and also believe it to be the responsibility of EVERYONE to stand up for these ideals, using whatever ways and means we can. All Councillors bear this responsibility”.
From: John Whalley, Steering Group member
https://my.northtyneside.gov.uk/meeting/1959
2  https://democracy.northtyneside.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=136&MId=236&Ver=4
https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Real-Change-Labour-Manifesto-2019.pdf   (pg 33)
https://konpnortheast.com/stp-aco/

Conservative win: But our movement is stronger than ever

We’ve given the December 2019 General Election campaign everything we have. But the struggle to save our NHS must grow if the NHS is to last another term of the Conservatives in office.

A message from national KEEP OUR NHS PUBLIC

The Conservatives have won the election.  And there’s no questioning that this is devastating news for the NHS. It was a close fight but their lies and media spin, backed by right-wing billionaire media moguls swayed the electorate. Though the NHS was the biggest issue for so many people, in the end the vote was on Brexit – not austerity and public services. But our message also reached a huge number of people, and all is not lost. Over 4.5 million watched our videos, one million people signed our #HandsOffOurNHS petition and hundreds of thousands of people engaged with our content. And millions of people voted for other political parties whose stance on the NHS is much closer to our own. It’s clear there’s a huge and growing audience for our message and an army of people willing to get involved to save our NHS.

The strength of NHS campaigning forced the Conservatives to make electioneering promises on the NHS and we will hold them to what they said. We will expose the lies and campaign for safer funding, safer staffing, an end to privatisation and protection for the NHS from trade deals.

Now is the time to redouble our efforts, take to the streets and join the fightback.

The news that Conservatives have been asked to form a Government doesn’t bode well for the future of our services, the last ten years have shown exactly how they defund, deregulate and privatise the NHS and now they intend to include its services and drugs in trade deals with the Trump administration. Pursuing their plans for local ‘integrated care systems’ – 44 separate NHS units in England – will see further rationing or exclusion of important NHS treatments and more, huge multi-billion pound private contracts. But they won’t get away with it in silence – we won’t let them.

Our Co-Chairs of Keep Our NHS Public, Tony O’Sullivan and John Puntis said:

We are truly proud of the campaign waged in defence of the NHS by Keep Our NHS Public, by Health Campaigns supporters and so many NHS staff, students and campaigners up and down the land. We have made a very real difference and have contributed to ensuring the NHS was high in voters minds. We are very disappointed at this election result. We believe the result could have been even more disappointing if we had not been so active. By challenging the lies of Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and those who went before them we have highlighted the truth about the crisis in the NHS. Now we must deny Boris Johnson the way clear to continue his project, which includes trade talks with the US which will endanger the NHS in a US-UK trade deal post-Brexit. We now resolve to continue to campaign, lobby and fight to ensure that our voice is heard and our demands are met to fund the NHS fully and to return the NHS to 100% public duty and provision as soon as possible.

We fought a hard campaign about which we can be incredibly proud. And our movement is now stronger than ever. This means we’re in a strong position to grow and keep up the pressure whatever comes next.

Even though our supporters, members and staff worked tirelessly to achieve all this, we will not rest until the NHS is safe. 2020 is when the struggle for our NHS continues.

Inspiring and thought-provoking

Welcome to KONPNE supporter and North East activist SEAN LAWS…. We invited Sean to share his thoughts about the “Health Campaigns Together” northern conference which took place in Leeds earlier this year – altogether, an inspiring and thought-provoking day.

Sometimes it is easy to feel isolated and as though you are fighting a losing battle in the world of campaigning, especially when it comes to the seemingly relentless onslaught of NHS privatisation. That however is not something I felt when I attended the northern region conference of “Health Campaigns Together” in Leeds last week. Although the NHS has been pushed onto a cliff edge and is only surviving because of the hard work and determination of its increasingly exhausted but dedicated staff, there was a sense of optimism and togetherness around the conference. Attended by representatives from many different campaigns around the northern region including Newcastle, South Tyneside, North Tyneside, Tyne Valley, Rothbury, York, Leeds, Chorley, Manchester and many others fighting to keep their local hospitals running and the united goal of ending privatisation in the NHS as a whole.

Attended by around 200 activists, clinicians, former health workers and people who simply care about OUR NHS, we heard reports from each grass roots campaign group and the work they are doing to make a difference. This format, bringing in the real life experiences of those around us, was a great tonic for all campaigners. Stories of hospitals staying open, services continuing to run and the struggle against ideologically driven privatisation are as strong as ever and were inspiring to hear. 

Alongside the campaign news and morale boosting cameraderie were a number of speakers including Dr Colin Hutchinson, a former consultant opthalmologist and clinical director, as well as being one of the five signatories to the judicial review into the lawfulness of ACO’s. Natalie Ratcliffe, unison area organiser, spoke about how trade unions work together behind the scenes and Alex Scott-Samuel, chair of Socialist Health Association, a former junior doctor and mover of composite 8 at the Labour Party conference in September spoke passionately about how the NHS has made such a difference to his life.

It was with this same passion that Alex lead the workshop, of which there were four, aimed at “galvanising Labour and other MPs & councillors to defend our NHS & support legislation to reinstate the NHS”. At the end of the session each workshop chair presented back the information and ideas that had been worked on. The other workshops were about how to “build local campaigns against cuts and closures”, “challenge ACO/ACS and STPs” and “supporting NHS staff fighting for fair pay and conditions” – all workshops providing really insightful and valuable things to bring back and put into practice. 

Taking something away not only from other peoples experience and enthusiasm but also having gained new friends, I would say bring on Health Campaigns Together conference 2019…. but hopefully by then our NHS will be in safer hands and it won’t be necessary!

With many thanks to Health Campaigns Together, KONP Leeds, and all who helped to make the day so successful.

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The KONPNE vlog of the day is here….enjoy!!

WORDS WITH REAL MEANING (January 2018):

 

 

ACO’s are the price of life

A big THANKYOU to Evie AKA punkfoodbandita,  who has kindly given her permission for us to include this account of the recent Public Lecture by Professor Allyson Pollock, with guests Professors Steffi Woolhandler and David Himmelstein.

More of Evie’s writing is found at https://punkfoodbandita.wordpress.com/

punkfoodbandita

A couple of weeks ago I attended a public lecture at Newcastle University titled ‘Is US style healthcare the future for England? It was held by Allyson Pollock a doctor who is a consultant in public health medicine and director of the institute of health and society at Newcastle University.

She was joined by Professors Steffi Woolhandler and David Himmelstein, two doctors who were advisors to Bernie Sanders and have been long involved in the fight in advocating non profit national health insurance in the US and have travelled to give us a real life dystopian glimpse of what we can expect if we allow this system to be implemented here.

The message all of them gave was clear. The move towards US health care provision is not hypothetical. It is already happening. It’s been a gradual move and one which the government is trying to sneak in without us noticing. They’ve adopted a similar stance that I did, when, aged 14, I wanted to dye my hair blue. I was forbidden outright by my dad, but when I discovered he is so severely colourblind that he could barely differentiate between different colours, I went ahead and did it anyway. He had no idea until one of the neighbours grassed me up, by which time the damage was done. He demanded an explanation and I just flat out denied I had blue hair, despite the evidence of my ears looking like a smurfs and there was a ruined towel stuffed at the back of the airing cupboard that I was praying wouldn’t be discovered.

But this isn’t a bottle of blue hair dye they are trying to sneak into the house. it is accountable care organisations, without it being discussed in parliament and without any consultation whatsoever. And the funny thing about accountable care organisations is that they are anything but accountable.

In fact ACO’s are only accountable to the health insurance company that holds the treatment budget for the population it covers. They dictate what treatments are available and who can get them, which is usually determined by who is cheaper to treat and more likely to recover enough to keep earning money to pay insurance to them. If they come in under that set budget, they get to keep it. What better incentive do they have then to cherry pick their patients and deny treatment to those in need who they deem unprofitable?

There are other signs, too. The NHS act 1946 placed special duty on the secretary of health to provide health care for all. No one could be left out. This duty is no longer in place. We are seeing care services dismantled and hospitals closing, or ‘merging’ as they like to call it as they honestly believe we are that fucking stupid. Here in the north east there is a fight to save South Tyneside hospital A&E, maternity and acute stroke services.

And yet the government tells us that these things are nothing to worry about. That we will still be receiving our healthcare. That this will make the ‘failing’ NHS better (plot twist: it is failing deliberately so we will welcome any odious changes they try to make).That we are over reacting.

Nothing to worry about.

At the moment, 30 million Americans do not have health insurance. This has been reduced from 50 million since the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare as it was nicknamed). In 2016 36,530 Americans died from preventable deaths due to no insurance.

American patients delay seeking help for suspected heart attacks and skip care more often. Patients insured through Medicaid- a state and federally funded insurance scheme for low income individuals and families- are denied or delayed care significantly more than those with private insurance.

And even if you do have private insurance, you’re rarely in a better position unless you happen to be really wealthy. You still have to pay deductibles when you have private health insurance and many of those who have it say deductibles are making their health insurance useless when they are having to pay sometimes thousands of dollars upfront before the insurance kicks in. 60% of those who are medically bankrupt became so despite having private health insurance. Medical debts account for 52.1% of items sent for debt collection.

Americans are now dying younger, life expectancy is falling, the gap between the life expectancy of the rich and the poor is becoming larger, and the US has seen an unprecedented increase in maternity mortality.

But the profits are huge. Health insurance salaries are between 17 and 47 million pounds a year- that’s over $100,000 a day which comes out of their patients pockets. People are dying because they can’t afford medicine while drug company profits hit $67.7 billion a year. David Himmelstein joked that as a doctor he was here to stop the spread of disease. The disease being the greed of private healthcare systems. And he knows a lot about this. In 1996 David was fired by US Healthcare, Inc for speaking out about how doctors are paid more for providing less care and can find themselves unemployed if they don’t. Health insurance companies write gagging orders and the right to fire without any reason into their doctors contracts.

He told us about the Tenet healthcare corporation (formerly National Medical Enterprises) who have found themselves in court for fraud and their horrifying treatment of patients, including unnecessary open heart surgery and electro-shock treatment and for literally kidnapping psychiatric patients, holding them without due reason until the day their insurance expired and then kicking them out on the street.

65% of US hospices are for profit businesses. And we are going the same way, rapidly. Listening to what was being said was nothing short of terrifying. Have a think about the people you love- how many of them have or have had health needs which, if not treated, would lead to an early death? And what would happen if you were told you had to pay thousands of pounds in order to save their life, even if you had insurance?

The NHS is something many of us take for granted. We aren’t angry enough or defending it enough because most of us don’t truly believe that the move towards the US model is something that could ever happen. But it is, it has started. The accountable care organisations are the evidence of it. Civil liberties have never been given to us, they have been fought for and protected by us. The government has already begun its cull of the poor with welfare reforms and sanctions. Now is the time to get involved. It’s not enough that it is left to the usual few activists. It doesn’t matter if you don’t see yourself as being ‘political’. Most people don’t until something happens that makes them realise it is really down to us to look after each other.

https://keepournhspublic.com/ is a good place to start to find out where your local MP’s stand and what events are happening in your area, but don’t be afraid to start your own campaigns. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has” (Margaret Mead). We still have time to protect the NHS. It is not free health care. It is funded and paid for by us and it is not theirs to sell to the highest fucking bidder or to the company they hold shares with. Do you think our taxes will go down if it is removed altogether? Of course not. It will be spent on MP pay rises. On sprinkler systems for parliament while the rest of us burn to ash.

The government attacks on our NHS is a disease. But we are the medicine.

THIS is how they’ll kill the NHS

KONPNE gives a warm North East welcome to Caroline Molloy, who writes in our guest blogger spot for this month. Caroline is Editor of “Our NHS”, which is part of the independent on-line “Open Democracy” website

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IT’s just been announced that smokers & overweight (BMI>30) people are to be banned from ALL non emergency services (going against stiff opposition to this plan from Royal College of Surgeons). The plan is now coming into force in Hertfordshire, and is proving to be the most extreme plan yet. 

It is very much worth sharing the article by Rachael Maskell MP (a former NHS professional herself) from earlier this year, on similar happenings in York.. and why it’s a terrible, counter-productive idea.

https://opendemocracy.net/ournhs/why-you-can-t-solve-nhs-s-funding-problems-by-banning-smokers-and-obese-from-treatment

The attacks on comprehensive universal healthcare are now getting louder – from smokers and the overweight, to migrants, to older people, to people who move around and aren’t registered with GPs….

And it will get worse next year. We need to push back hard.

Now.

 

ournhs_logo

 

What is openDemocracy?

Through reporting and analysis of social and political issues, openDemocracy seeks to challenge power and encourage democratic debate across the world. With human rights as our central guiding focus, we ask tough questions about freedom, justice and democracy.

We give those fighting for their rights the agency to make their case and to inspire action.

Please check out

https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs

STP: Stop, Think, Please….

KONPNE are grateful for the following  guest blog from the health policy analyst, writer and broadcaster Roy Lilley

I’m pretty sure it was never meant to be like this.  

I said they were such a good idea.  I was a fan.

The idea that local people could get together, have the opportunity to sit down and sort out what health care could, should and would look like, in what they agreed was, ‘their area’.

The freedom to plan, shape the future in this way, might only come once in a career. 

I said they got off on the wrong foot.  Quiet, private moments of brainstorming and thoughtfulness were badly handled and deliberately misconstrued by the malevolent, as them forging secret plans.

I said, be patient, wait.  There are statutory consultation requirements.

Now we discover they have been paying out a small fortune to management consultants, to do the job they were supposed to be doing.

Now I say, with regret; how have STPs gone so badly wrong?

How have senior, sensible people let this opportunity slip through their fingers.  Why have experienced people, who should know better, not done better, than just reinvent the past.  They are reduced to system management and cuts. Consultants and same-old.

Why is it that professionals, truly focussed on reimagining healthcare, can’t work together?

I understand some STPs are being obliged to improve their clinical engagement… gimme strength. It’s a fundamental!

I hear rows about GPs having ‘no say’; STPs turning into a club for hospital chief executives… local authorities all but excluded.  Healthwatch reduced to watching and the public don’t have the first clue what to expect the future of their healthcare will look like.

If half of what I hear is right… it is 100% not what it should be.

To repair some of the public-facing damage NHSE will recruit a communications professional… to do what?  Perhaps they should advertise for a decorator, to paper over the cracks?  The damage has been done.

Wherever I go I hear about… plans.  Plans disputed, argued over.  Cockamamie ideas that primary and community care has the capacity, facilities, staff and wherewithal to do the heavy lifting for secondary care.

Really bonkers plans… close 300 beds.  Work it out; an average length of stay of, say, five days, means; every five days there’s a turnover of 300 people.  

There are 73, five day cycles in a year… times 300.

That means over 22,000, probably frail, elderly people, extra, for GPs and community staff to take care of… on top of everything else.  Genius idea…and even if I’m only half right; it’s no way to look after yer granny.

And let’s not forget people with dementia and mental health needs… everyone else seems to.

Now the talk is for more money and more beds.  Why have STPs gone so badly wrong?

STP planning is being done, in the main, on top of the day job.  Who has the time or resource to populate committees and endless meetings?  The hospitals.  Hence, it is probably true, they are dominated by secondary care.

Most STP chairs are parachuted in and chief executives ‘appointed’.  No sense of local ownership, no elections.  Recreating the heavy handed, topdown relics of the past. 

Let’s not make any bones about it; STPs exist to deliver more for less.  Undeniably, there are efficiencies at the margins but STPs will never find them.  

System management means; sending 100 people somewhere different in the system, oblivious to the fact that the places they leave behind will be filled by another 100 and then another hundred.

STPs can’t deal with demand, they can only play with the flow created by demand.  Demand is too far upstream for NHS dominated STPs to deal with; housing, work, the environment, diet, lifestyle, poverty, education.  And, the cycle of change takes too long for STPs, who need cash rattling in the tin by 2020.

Some of our austerity driven NHS is so damaged it’s beyond STPs to repair. Even the United Nations condemns our approach to austerity.

STPs?  Shuffling stuff.  Circling the wagons.  Pretending less is more.  Recreating the Jurassic Park, management model of the 80’s and 90’s.

Where is nimble, flair, innovation, inclusive, collegiate, agile, daring, bright, thoughtful, clever, erudite, elegance, mastery, inventiveness, smart.  

Where is together and connected?  Why have STPs gone so badly wrong?

STP; Stop, Think, Please…

Conversations at the Monument

 

We met with many people at the #VoteNHS Roadshow at the Monument on Saturday  – all very aware of the forthcoming election day. Many people were keen to share personal experiences regarding contact with NHS staff and treatment within the NHS.

Five members of the public wrote down a personal message for our blog, copied here, word for word….

I  text_heart_black  because…. I believe young people deserve to have a service my grandparents were lucky enough to have. This Tory government wants to sell everything off and make us have private health insurance like the USA. That is why I am voting on 8th June.

I   text_heart_blackbecause….they saved my life when I was 18 – I was in a road accident. Without the NHS, I wouldn’t be alive today, 42 years later. Everyone should have this protection, regardless of their income.

I   text_heart_black because…. we’re on the verge of the Conservatives selling it off into private hands, and this is our last chance to claim what belongs to us before it is too late.

I  text_heart_black  because….I lived in the USA for a few years, and private health insurance leads to exploitation. Peoples claims can be rejected on the smallest of issues. Someone I knew had a thumb cut in an accident – but found that his insurance only covered his fingers. People who get cancer and serious issues have to declare bankruptcy and lose their homes, as the state would not fund treatment.

Here in the UK – we need to Keep the NHS Public

I  text_heart_black  because….my wife had a very difficult pregnancy. Without going into the details, we spent half of the pregnancy term in the RVI (Newcastle). Without the five star treatment we received, I have absolutely no doubt that my wife and daughter would not be here today. I can’t imagine what the bill would have looked like for the care we received – we didn’t pay a penny.

The NHS is probably the greatest thing we have ever created, and has been a catalyst for the greatest era in social mobility we have ever seen.

The Tory government do not want the NHS and are dismantling it brick by brick under our noses. We’ve got to get them out. For ever.

Greys Monument

 

Stronger Together…

We are really pleased to welcome #CreativeGeordie back as guest blogger this month – read more from #CG at http://www.creative2926.wordpress.com

 

That was the purpose and the message at last night’s meeting in Newcastle. No faffing about. No dilly dallying. No objections. Various NHS campaigners from around the North East behaving as activists and organising a Health bloc at the NUT Education rally on Saturday 27 May, in Newcastle.

Before the looming General Election on 8 June, it’s one last push to inform any wavering members of the public that education and health are up there with the ecomomy, DWP travesties and housing as the clinch pins of what this General Election is all about. All the issues that are against Tory ideology and austerity measures.

Amongst those present were: Save South Tyneside Hospital; Save North Tyneside NHS; Keep Our NHS Public NE; KONP Durham; KONP Gateshead and Defend Tynedale NHS Services. Officiently chaired by Tony Dowling, of People’s Assembly NE, the meeting lasted just under the hour. Everyone was in agreement – let’s stand united against the Tories and their dismantling and privatisation of OUR NHS.

In fact the NHS will be 69 years old on 5 July. And a week of celebration was discussed too. Hopefully it will be a celebration.

Let’s get this message out – hands off our NHS to the Tories. And let’s get Theresa May booking that removal van for 9 June.

Please join us on 27 May at Grey’s Monument. And look out on social media for further details of the route of the march and the speakers on that day.

It’s time to say loud n clear: Cut back? Fight back!

Nye Bevan image

Keeping the doors open at A&E

Further to the report in Saturday’s Chronicle, it is highly disturbing to find that three key North East Hospitals were forced to close their doors to ambulances this winter due to an unprecedented demand on emergency services. This resulted in ambulances being diverted to neighbouring A&E’s. When, however, we consider the bigger picture, the situation is a little more understandable.

Nothing happens in isolation. Health and social care services are interrelated, and where there is a cut back which results in reduced accessibility to one type of service (for example, a clinic being closed / amalgamated with another neighbouring Trust, or increased workload in primary care, or the closure / reduced hours at a walk-in centre), then there will undoubtedly be an increased incidence of undiagnosed or acute conditions, plus a bottleneck in that service and other associated services. This situation, when coupled with staff shortages at A&E and ever-increasing distances to travel for emergency treatment, creates a volatile mix.

Our doctors, nurses and ambulance staff in the North East undoubtedly rank amongst the most highly skilled and dedicated clinicians in the country, yet face intolerable operational pressures on a day-to-day basis. They need the practical resources so that they can get on and do their job.

High demand – Yes. But we also need to see the bigger picture. The recent ambulance diverts at Cramlington, South Tyneside and County Durham A&E’s are clearly a symptom of the chronic and systemic underfunding of health and social care.

If you believe that the NHS should remain fully funded so that the doors can remain open at all times to provide healthcare for all, then contact us at konpnortheast@gmail.com. or come along to our next meeting – details are here.

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Underwhelmed with information from Newcastle Gateshead CCG

Openness, transparency, partnerships, collaborative working, joint decision-making, engagement and consultation??? Sound familiar??? Fantastic ideas, but in addition to doing the talk, there is then a need to actually walk the walk.

The draft Northumberland, Tyne, Wear and North Durham Sustainability and Transformation Plan had an inauspicious start to life in November 2016. Cloaked in secrecy from the very start, this top-down decree from NHS England via the local CCG had local North East councillors scratching their heads. The claim was that it came from both health and local authority – when Councillors hadn’t even seen it. Inspires a lot of confidence in our local CCG (not).

And now, over four months down the line, we still don’t have the full picture. Most people (including many local Councillors) are blissfully unaware that we have been provided with just half a draft Sustainability and Transformation Plan.  The all-important appendices to the STP, which contain key operational information, have been kept tightly under wraps by Newcastle Gateshead CCG despite both informal requests (in conversation and in emails) and formal requests (Freedom of Information applications) from Keep Our NHS Public North East. We wonder why this is the case?

Newcastle Gateshead CCG respond to our request to see the Appendices by maintaining

“an early release of this information could potentially result in a reduced quality of data, which clearly would not be helpful….it is in the wider public interest to ensure that this information becomes available to all members of the public at the same time through an official publication process”

Mark Adams, Chief officer, Newcastle Gateshead CCG, 20th March 2017

Well, our first request to have sight of the draft STP appendices was made on 30th November 2016. And still no sign. If we were of a suspicious nature, we may think that the CCG has something to hide.

—————

But, interestingly, the plot thickens.

The CCG have just hosted what they feel to be a period of “engagement”. The part of the draft STP which was made public is a process heavy weight which is largely undecipherable and remains inaccessible to anyone outside CCG land, and thus requires translation.

In considering the six acute hospital sites in the STP footprint, we find the following words tucked away in a corner of the draft STP document and we quote:

“The analysis considers a range of scenarios in which either one or two of the six sites would be turned into cold sites by shifting out non-elective procedures and using freed up capacity to shift in elective procedures from the remaining hot sites in the patch”

from “Optimal Use of the Acute Sector” page near the end of the Nov 2016 NTWND draft STP document.

Now, our understanding is that to be a ‘cold’ site patients must be stable and unlikely to need intensive medical input – so this means no A&E, no medical admissions, no surgical admissions, no ITU or HDU. This is what Northumbria have done – Cramlington is ‘hot’ and N Tyneside and Wansbeck are ‘cold’. So, in reading the draft STP, our initial thought is that the closure of A&E and other acute services are being considered as an option for one or two more hospitals in our STP footprint, with the shifting out of non-elective (emergency, unforeseen) procedures to ‘hot’ hospital sites, and shifting in planned (non-critical) treatments and care to the one or two proposed ‘cold’ sites.

Important stuff – no doubt. Tucked away in a corner of the document – certainly. Highlighted so as to welcome peoples feedback – no. A great move in building trust (not).

 A local population has a right to information and a right to present views – and that is what true engagement is about. KONPNE asked about this specific hot and cold clause at one of the “engagement” meetings, but the response was inadequate and fudged. We remain interested, and when we wrote to Newcastle Gateshead CCG within the engagement period and listed four very specific questions about this one specific issue, we were disappointed in that the CCG considered it fit to reply again with a totally fudged

“Since the publication of the draft plan, ‘the optimal use of the acute sector’ workstream has been analysed, and we are in the process of developing a more detailed plan which will help to support the sustainability of services”

Mark Adams, Chief officer, Newcastle Gateshead CCG, 20th March 2017

Back on planet earth, the process is straightforward. The CCG write a draft paper and invite comments or questions. A person reads the paper, find that clarification of part of the document is required, and writes with clear, specific questions. The convention is that the questions are then answered in a full and timely manner. What we have, in fact, received back is more CCG doublespeak –  vague and coded, and with absolutely no answer to any of the questions. Quite frankly, we consider this response to be dismissive and disrespectful.

We have written to Newcastle Gateshead CCG again on 24th March 2017, as we still require a response to the four specific questions we originally posed about the hot and cold sites, but we still have no reply. Maybe they have gone cold on us. But we will persist.

We will persist because a very important principle is at stake. It is, of course, both ironic and unacceptable that any large scale proposal for service change which professes to be both transparent and engaging should withhold key information.  Newcastle Gateshead CCG have asked members of the public for their opinion about an important issue, but without providing the full detail – both regarding the appendices to the STP and, as described above, regarding a specific part of the document. When additional information about these issues has been requested by members of the public, this has not been forthcoming from the CCG.

This does little to instil a sense of joint working, ownership and confidence in the process.

Initial engagement? Totally underwhelmed.