Month: January 2018

As above-inflation council tax rises loom – men’s real earnings in Devon fell by over 3 per cent in 2017

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A shocking figure leaps out from the Equality Impact Statement for next month’s Devon County Council budget – average male full time earnings in the county did not increase at all in 2017. The annual change was ZERO! Since inflation ended the year at 3.1 per cent per annum, this means average male earnings fell by this amount. Many families still rely wholly or mainly on a male full-time worker, so this means a drastic fall in many people’s income (indeed since the figure is an average, many will have lost more than this).

Average female full-time earnings did rise, by 3.8 per cent (a small real increase) but since many women work part-time, this doesn’t necessarily mean that overall women were better off. Taking male and female full-time workers together, there was a cash increase of 1 per cent, meaning a 2.1 per cent average decline.

Can Devon councillors go along with above-inflation council tax increases when their constituents already have falling real incomes?

After Sarah Wollaston calls for delay in introducing Accountable Care Organisations, I have submitted evidence about Devon’s Accountable Care System to the parliamentary enquiry

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Sarah Wollaston, the chair of the Commons Health Committee, has written to the Health and Social Care Secretary urging him to delay a new contract for Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs), due to be implemented nationally later this year. She claims there is a “great deal of concern” over the plans which she considers “have not been well aired publicly up until now”.

This is precisely the point which I have made about Devon’s Accountable Care System -intended I believe as a precursor to Accountable Care Organisations – which is due to begin on 1st April. Neither Devon’s Health Scrutiny Committee nor the public has been made aware of this, and what it involves is still unclear.

I have submitted the paper – with 8 key questions – which I prepared for Health Scrutiny on Thursday to the parliamentary Health Committee’s Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships inquiry. Thanks to Mike Allen for drawing my attention to this just before last night’s deadline for submitting evidence.

Scandal of fundamental changes to Devon’s NHS, which open door to large-scale privatisation, pushed through without public discussion – I have put them on the agenda of next week’s Health Scrutiny Committee

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CCG logoDevon’s two Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are pushing ahead with far-reaching, highly controversial changes to the NHS in the County from 1st April – without alerting the public or even the public watchdog, the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee at Devon County Council.

The changes will turn the Sustainability and Transformation Plan – which itself grew out of the misnamed ‘Success Regime’ which closed our community hospital beds – into a more permanent Devon Accountable Care System. The first phase, in the first part of the financial year 2017-18, will develop integrated delivery systems, with a single ‘strategic commissioner’ for the whole county.

However the real concern is the next phase, which will lead to the establishment of Accountable Care Organisations. These will lead to services being permanently financially constrained, limiting NHS patients’ options for non-acute conditions, and pushing better-off patients even more towards private practice.

Large chunks of our NHS will be contracted out for long periods, probably to private providers. The ‘toolkit’ for this fundamental change talks about ensuring ‘that there are alternative providers available in the event of provider failure’. In the aftermath of Carillion, do we really want most of our NHS contracted out to private firms?

Devon’s public are not being consulted about this change – unlike in Cornwall where the Council has launched a public consultation – and there is no reason to believe that they want a privatised, two-tier health system.

Devon’s CCGs have pushed the change through without publicity, and it is only because I have put it on the agenda that Health Scrutiny will have a chance to discuss in advance of April 1st. I have written a 7-page paper for the Committee outlining what we know about the ACS and posing eight questions which they should ask about it.

Why we should be worried about Accountable Care Organisations – coming to Devon’s NHS in the next year

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Dr Graham Winyard explains. He is a former medical director of the NHS and deputy chief medical officer, and one of the people behind the crowdfunded legal action against ACOs.

Three Devon emergency consultants sign letter to Theresa May on ‘intolerable safety compromises’ in A&E winter crisis

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Three leading Devon emergency clinicians, from different hospitals, are among doctors from 68 hospital trusts across England and Wales who have signed an urgent letter to the Prime Minister saying “the current level of safety compromise is at times intolerable, despite the best efforts of staff.” They demand more hospital beds and more money for social care.

They are Ann Hicks, Plymouth Hospitals Trust, Liam Kevern, Northern Devon Healthcare Trust and Nick Mathieu, Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust. No one from the RD&E signed the letter – but does this mean that things are OK there?

Progress on traffic calming in Colyford and Seaton Down Hill – MP, councillors and police thrash out solutions with Community Speed Watch teams and residents

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On Friday I chaired a meeting in Colyford in which interested parties discussed solutions to problems of speeding in the village and on Seaton Down Hill. Those present including Cllr Stuart Hughes (Cabinet member for Highways) and officers, Superintendent Elaine Hartley (Speed Watch Co-ordinator Peninsula Road Safety Partnership) and other police officers, Neil Parish MP (who had chaired two earlier meetings which had brought everyone together), and representatives of Colyton Parish Council and Seaton Town Council. In a lively meeting, progress was made including:

  1. Work should begin at the end of this month on a new pedestrian refuge in Seaton Down Hill.
  2. Surveys have established that the agreed crossing in Colyford would be best situated near the Memorial Hall, but problems associated with the school buses need to be resolved before this can go ahead.
  3. Devon Highways have accepted in principle that the 40 mph restriction on Harepath Hill could be extended past the A3052 junction with Seaton Down Hill (because of problems of visibility at the junction and the need for pedestrians to cross from the carpark to the footpath towards Holyford Woods). This change would mean that Seaton Down Hill would also be subject to a 40 limit, as asked for by the Speed Watch team and Town Council. However funding remains to be discussed and the change will need to go through the usual formal approval process.
  4. Two Vehicle Activated Signs (VAS) for Colyford (one at each end of the village) are under discussion between Highways, the Speed Watch team and myself.
  5. An additional uphill VAS sign for Seaton Down Hill is under discussion between Seaton Town Council, the Speed Watch team and myself.

The meeting was also a landmark get-together of local Community Speed Watch teams. Teams from Rousdon, Wilmington, Knowle, Ottery St Mary and West Hill, as well as the Colyford and Seaton Down Hill teams who organised the meeting, were present, and were unanimous in complaining about the slowness of police administrative procedures, the lack of data sharing, and uncertainty about how Highways and the police used Speed Watch results. Elaine Hartley acknowledged these problems and promised a meeting of teams from across Devon and Cornwall in the coming months.