DCC Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee- and particularly its chair Sarah Randall Johnson – take note:
“NHS campaigners meeting with MPs to call for better scrutiny and review to stop damaging cuts
Defend the NHS campaign groups from across England are to lobby MPs at a meeting in the House of Commons on Monday 10th September.
They will share their experiences of the need to improve the process of scrutiny and review of substantial changes to NHS services, in order to stop damaging cuts and changes.
The meeting is hosted by Paula Sherriff, MP for Dewsbury – where the District General Hospital has lost many of its key services.
Local campaign group, North Kirklees Support the NHS, will explain the risks this has created for the Dewsbury public.
Along with six other campaigns from Lincolnshire, West Yorkshire, Devon, Northumbria, Dorset and Oxfordshire, the Dewsbury group will tell MPs that there is an urgent need to address serious flaws in the process whereby Councils’ scrutiny committees refer proposals for damaging NHS cuts and changes to the Secretary of State for Health and the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.
Christine Hyde, from North Kirklees Support the NHS, said,
“The process of referral to the Secretary of State was opaque. The Independent Reconfiguration Panel is the key body with the power to advise the Secretary of State for Health to stop and/or require changes to major NHS cuts and “reconfigurations” – but there was next to no information about how it worked.
Once we had figured that out, we naively thought public opinion would have some weight. Together with the other five local NHS protector groups, we encouraged Independent Reconfiguration Panel members to visit Dewsbury.
We were ignored.
The Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s decision that local commissioners could sort out the failings in the hospital cuts proposals has not, for the most part, been borne out.
As the hospitals reconfiguration has been implemented, it has created huge problems for the most vulnerable groups – housebound patients, infants, children with disabilities and patients with life threatening illnesses like cancer.
The hospital changes were sold as being ‘better for patients’ but it really was all about the money and even so, the savings are recorded in a response to a Freedom of Information request as ‘nominal’.”
Campaigners will also demand political impartiality in the scrutiny and referral process.
The need for this is shown by Save Our Hospitals Devon’s observation of a discussion and decision by Devon County Council’s health and adult social care scrutiny committee, that reversed an earlier vote to refer the closure of community hospital beds in Eastern Devon to the Secretary of State.
Members of Save Our Hospitals Devon Netti Pearson and Sue Matthews said,
“The feeling among observers was certainly that the decision was a political one rather than one borne of effective and satisfactory scrutiny.”
Steven Carne from 999 Call for the NHS, the national campaign group which has convened the meeting, said,
“We are very excited about the campaign groups coming together from across the country to share their experiences of wrestling with the scrutiny and referral process.
This is key to stopping damaging NHS cuts, closures and inappropriate importation of insurance-based ‘care models’ from USA’s Medicare/Medicaid system. This provides a limited range of state-funded healthcare, on the basis of financial considerations – not clinical need, to people who can’t afford private health insurance. It is not what the NHS is about.
For the first time, campaign groups across England are pooling our knowledge and experience to lobby MPs to make this scrutiny and referrals process work better, because it definitely needs to.
And also to encourage other campaigns to get more actively involved with the process, in defence of NHS and social care services in their area.
The Department of Health guidance on health scrutiny says its primary aim is to strengthen the voice of local people in the commissioning and delivery of health services.
So it needs to make sure this happens.
This meeting is just a start. We are going to pursue this goal through thick and thin.”