PARLIAMENT DEBATE ON HOSPITAL BED CUTS MAY HAVE BEEN USEFUL BUT HEALTH MINISTER STONEWALLED MPs
Hugo Swire’s scheduled debate in parliament this afternoon about Devon’s NHS cuts was attended by almost all Devon MPs.
Ben Bradshaw and Sarah Wollaston unfortunately were unable to be there as they were in a health select committee meeting.
Although the health minister present (I don’t know who it was) pretty much stonewalled all the requests for more funding I do think that virtually all Devon’s MPs getting in a room all collectively complaining that NHS services in their areas being cut, was quite powerful.
It was an interesting insight into the differences between what were all conservative MPs views. Some simply argued against the plans of the local NHS in Devon. Others argued quite vociferously for more funding. But all appeared to fall on deaf ears, if the minister’s anodyne response was anything to go by.
Hugo Swire referred at the beginning to a long list of “demands and asks” – yet at the end of his 10 minute speech all I heard was a list of concerns. The only thing I heard him ask for was a letter from the minister relating to the loss of GP out of hours service in Exmouth.
He was articulate and easy to listen to but lacked the conviction of someone who really wanted to change anything.
Hugo Swire also claimed that those who blamed the conservatives for health funding problems were “immature.”
Other MP speakers included Oliver Colville and Anne Marie Norris – both of whom I thought were long-winded and ineffectual, Geoffrey Cox argued strongly for a fairer funding formula for Devon (he also sounded as though he was auditioning for Shakespeare), Peter Heaton Jones, who also argued for more funding (and stuck to his guns when the health minister tried to slap him down) and Neil Parish, who I thought was the best speaker.
Mr Parish displayed what appeared to be genuine passion for local services and frustration at Honiton Hospital being cut out of the consultation. He asked the minister for action on this, but the minister merely replied that it was a consultation and people should respond regardless!
Mr Parish called for all Devon MPs to oppose the bed cuts rather than a piecemeal approach, which is a position I entirely agree with. He stopped short, however, of calling for more funding.
The health minister’s repeated “gentle reminders” to his conservative MPs felt to me to have a rather menacing element, as though he resented being called out from his office to listen to a group of his own irksome backbenchers. They were “gently reminded” about a range of issues such as the consultation and NHS funding – which the minister said had already been uplifted for Devon.
The bottom line (and only piece of action it seemed to me) was that the minister agreed to write to Hugo Swire about Exmouth out of hours GP cuts. I think that this was it.
Hugo Swire did attempt a last minute currying of favour with the minister by reminding him that it was the Devon MPs who won the general election for the conservatives. Unfortunately the appeal seemed to fall upon stony, if not rocky, ground.
I would have liked to have seen a united front with a clear list of “asks” shared by all Devon MPs (after all they are of the same party), and speeches peppered with searching questions.
I hope that this will be the start of many more such similar debates on behalf of the residents of Devon.
… the result not of the EU but of the failure of the Tory government (which includes Gove as well as Cameron) to invest properly in the service. How much worse will it be if a Brexit recession crashes government income?
Independent County Councillor Claire Wright comments: “Devon NHS cuts loom as regime narrows its focus. The team parachuted in by NHS England to reduce a massive health service debt in Devon has narrowed down its focus for cuts, it emerged yesterday. At Monday’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee, the Success Regime, led by former RD&E chief executive, Angela Pedder, outlined its progress so far and I asked about proposals to publicly consult.
If nothing changes, we were told that the NHS in Devon will be a whopping £398m in the red by 2020/21. The paper submitted with the committee agenda states: “Some services such as stroke, paediatrics, maternity are not clinically or financially sustainable in the long term without changes to the way they are delivered across the system.
Other services that will be targeted includes emergency surgery and specialties such as ear, nose and throat services. And it looks as though we will lose more hospital beds across large and small hospitals in the area.“Bed based activity will decrease and fewer beds will be needed in acute hospitals (big district hospitals) or community hospitals.”
In a separate but perhaps linked development, we also heard yesterday from South Devon Clinical Commissioning Group that it is poised to publicly consult on reducing its community hospital bed numbers from 156 to 96. Torbay Hospital is also set to lose 100 beds. Five community hospitals are proposed to be closed and sold off, freeing up around £6.2m. These are Dartmouth, Bovey Tracey, Ashburton, Buckfastleigh and Paignton.
The paper goes on to state that there are “initial recommendations on five segments of the population. These are:
– Elderly with chronic conditions
– Adults with chronic conditions
– Adults with severe and enduring mental illness
– Elderly with dementia
– Mostly healthy adults
The changes proposed are set to deliver around £70m of savings during 2016/17, with a £100m expected to be saved by March 2018. The paper seemed to be a bit light on what consultation would take place, although it was clear that the regime wanted the changes implemented as soon as possible.
I asked twice about this and received a rather vague reply but it looks as though there will be a 12 week consultation, possibly starting in July, which is when the regime is set to publish its detailed plans. Health scrutiny chairman, Richard Westlake, asked that a detailed consultation programme be sent to the committee.
These are likely to be significant cuts to health services and it is essential that the public consultation period is handled properly and fairly.”
Itemised webcast of yesterday’s meeting here – http://www.devoncc.public-i.tv/…/portal/webcast_inte…/222097
Source: Claire Wright, Independent Parliamentary Candidate for East Devon, Facebook, via East Devon Watch