5 days (again!) to local elections – today’s pictures

Community hospital beds closed in Axminster, Seaton, Honiton and Ottery St Mary. EDDC Tories refuse to list the them as community assets, DCC Tories don’t want to discuss it either. There are simply not enough community staff to look after vulnerable people in their own homes:

‘There’s no money to provide ‘Care in the Community’…but we have just enough to move him into the carpark!’

‘That IS her care pathway.’

‘This is one of our elderly patients, or to use the technical term ‘bedblocker’.’

“Amount of NHS land in England earmarked for sale soars, figures show”

Ministers have been accused of “selling off the NHS family silver” after figures revealed that the amount of health service land being earmarked for sale to private developers is soaring.

The NHS is seeking buyers for 718 different plots of land or buildings it owns across England, prompting fears that underfunding has forced cash-strapped NHS trusts to dispose of vital assets.

The total of 718 sites represents a 72% rise on the 418 plots the NHS deemed as surplus to requirements two years ago.

Nurses priced out of housing developments on former NHS sites

The number of sites on the market that NHS bosses say are currently being used for clinical or medical purposes is also rising fast, from 117 last year to 140 – almost one in five of the total.

Seven of the top 10 sites with the highest value fall into that category. They include a part of Heatherwood hospital in Ascot, Berkshire – which is used by patients from Theresa May’s nearby Maidenhead constituency – valued at £35m, and part of the site of Birmingham’s City hospital (£18.8m).

Labour said the figures, contained in the NHS’s annual register of land for sale, showed that hospitals were being forced into a “firesale of assets” after years of being starved of resources while the government had restricted annual budget rises to 1% since 2010.

“Hospitals are struggling to cope with cutbacks from the Tories. The answer should be a serious long-term government-funded investment plan and not selling off the NHS’s family silver,” said Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary.

Last year a government-commissioned report by Sir Robert Naylor, a former University College London hospital chief executive, said the NHS could raise £6bn from taking a more “commercial approach” to disposing of land.

Ministers approve of the growing selloffs, which they say will help generate receipts that NHS trusts can then use to redevelop their facilities and build homes for staff.

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, voiced unease. It said the selloffs were short-sighted and could leave hospitals with too little space to expand in future.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the chair of the BMA council, said: “These figure show a staggering increase in sale of NHS land in the last two years. This begs serious questions as to the reason for this surge. Was this land actually surplus or are these sales being used to plug financial deficits in hospital trusts as a result of a decade of underfunding?

“It is vital to safeguard the sale of NHS land and estate from perverse short-term financial incentives, and which may result in a reduction in estate and facilities that is insufficient to meet the future needs of patients. These figures demand scrutiny. Selling land shouldn’t be a way for the health service to make up for austerity-era cuts – especially if it could come at the expense of patient care.”

The total amount of land involved in the NHS asset sale has grown from 545.7 hectares (1,348 acres) in 2015-16 to 1,332 hectares in 2016-17 and 1,749.4 hectares last year, according to research undertaken by the House of Commons library for Ashworth.

The Department of Health and Social Care defended the rise in sales. A spokesperson said: “As part of the long-term plan for the NHS we are committed to making taxpayers’ money go further, including getting the best use out of the land and buildings the NHS owns.

“We are helping trusts dispose of surplus land or buildings so that money is saved and spent instead on improving patient care, whilst freeing up space for much needed new homes, including for NHS staff.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/sep/09/nhs-land-earmarked-for-sale-to-developers

“Public Accounts Committee calls for ‘step change’ in transparency in local public bodies”

“There is a need for a step change in transparency by local public bodies and particularly those in the NHS, MPs have said.

In a report, Auditing local government, the Public Accounts Committee noted that in 2017-18, auditors found that more than 1 in 5 local public bodies did not have proper arrangements in place to secure value for money for taxpayers.

“The numbers are worst for local NHS bodies such as clinical commissioning groups and hospital trusts, where 38% did not have proper arrangements,” it said.

The MPs added that some local bodies were not putting enough information in the public domain about their performance, including reports from their external auditors.

The report called on central government departments to make clear their expectations, “not only for what is made publicly available, but also for making the information accessible to users and so helping citizens to hold local bodies to account”.

The PAC said there appeared to be few consequences for those local bodies who did not take auditors’ concerns seriously and address them promptly. “Even where local auditors use their additional reporting powers to highlight failings, this does not always lead to the bodies taking immediate action.”

The report also recorded the MPs’ concern that, as partnership working becomes more complex, accountability arrangements will be weakened, and the performance of individual local bodies will become less transparent.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the committee, said: “Taxpayers must be assured that their money is well-spent but in too many cases local bodies cannot properly safeguard value. Particularly concerning are NHS bodies such as Clinical Commissioning Groups and hospital trusts: last year almost two in five did not have adequate arrangements.

“As we reported last week, many CCGs are underperforming and this must improve as they take on responsibility for commissioning services across larger populations.”

Hillier added: “It is vital that local bodies take auditors’ concerns seriously, address them swiftly and ensure meaningful information on performance is made accessible to the public.

“Our report sets out ways central government can help to drive improvements at local level and we urge it to respond positively to our recommendations.” …”

https://www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/governance/396-governance-news/40088-public-accounts-committee-calls-for-step-change-in-transparency-in-local-public-bodies

Bojo says historic child abuse inquiries are a waste of money (he wasted at least £940m as London Mayor)

Maybe because several abusers appear to have been MPs or others (still) in power? And he’s the man whose failed Mayor of London projects cost an estimated £940 million!

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/aug/18/bridge-940m-bill-boris-johnsons-mayora-vanity-projects-garden-bridge-routemaster-bus

“Boris Johnson has declared money spent on non-recent child abuse investigations had been “spaffed up a wall”, prompting immediate criticism from Labour for making reckless and inappropriate comments.

The current favourite to succeed Theresa May as Conservative leader was arguing police time and resources were being wasted on crimes committed years ago as he was questioned on an LBC radio phone-in on Wednesday morning.

But he went on to complain: “And one comment I would make is I think an awful lot of money and an awful lot of police time now goes into these historic offences and all this malarkey.

“You know, £60m I saw was being spaffed up a wall on some investigation into historic child abuse and all this kind of thing. What on earth is that going to do to protect the public now?”

Louise Haigh, the shadow policing minister, said Johnson’s remarks were insulting to victims of abuse.

“Could you look the victims in the eye and tell them investigating and bringing to justice those who abused them, as children, is a waste of money?” she asked. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/13/boris-johnson-under-fire-over-remarks-about-child-abuse-inquiries

[Ottery] “Hospital faces 18 month wait to apply for community status”

“East Devon District Council (EDDC) announced on February 27 that supporters must wait until February 2020 before re-applying for the hospital to be listed as an asset of community value (ACV). When a building is listed as an ACV, the local community has to be informed if it goes up for sale and the public can enact the ‘community right to bid’ which gives them a period of six months to determine if they can raise the finance to purchase the asset.

The initial decision not to list the building as an ACV came in December when Ottery was one of four East Devon hospitals to be nominated. EDDC stated that it did not believe the hospital furthered the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community.

At the council meeting on February 27, Cllr Roger Giles, who also sits on the Ottery Town Council, raised the matter and referenced Southwold Hospital, in Suffolk, which was successfully listed as an ACV, before becoming the first hospital in the country to be bought by the community.

As part of the decision to list it as an ACV, Cllr Giles said the strategic director of WDC stated the owner’s assertion there is no evidence of the community social wellbeing being furthered defied common sense.

Cllr Giles said this is a view shared by many local Ottery residents about their hospital and warned that Ottery and other local community hospitals are at risk because of this perverse decision. He said EDDC is suffering reputational damage as a result of this ‘very regrettable’ decision.

Cllr Ian Thomas, leader of EDDC, said each case is considered on its merits and there had been no new evidence to warrant a review for Ottery.

Last week, leading figures from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and the Northern, Eastern and Western Locality Devon Clinical Commissioning Group attended a discussion to review plans for the building. A statement from the working group said: “A wide-ranging and constructive discussion took place, and a number of tasks were allocated.”

A further meeting will be held in early June.”

https://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/ottery-hospital-wait-1-5930495