Calderdale Council’s “People’s Commission” into future of health and social care lacks formal powers

Members of the public who attended recent “Right Care” drop in sessions reported that Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) supports Calderdale Council’s proposed “People’s Commission” into the future of health and social care in Calderdale.

Now Calderdale Council has followed up with a press release announcing the “People’s Commission” launch.

The Council’s “People’s Commission” seems to add another layer to local NHS organisations’ public “engagement’ and consultation about their ‘Right Care” proposals. These proposals aim to reduce costly acute and emergency hospital admissions and replace these hospital services with cheaper care health and social care in the community for patients with long term illnesses.

A member of Calderdale 38 Degrees NHS Campaign said,

“Calderdale 38 degrees N H S Campaign Group welcomes the demand by the Council for Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust and their partners to withdraw the hugely unpopular Strategic Outline Case. Following the recent sham and shameful engagement exercise by Calderdale Clinical Commissioning  Group, the Calderdale 38 Degrees NHS group expects Calderdale Councillors to be completely clear about the need for an open, transparent and democratic investigation of the views of the Calderdale public.  Any attempts to reverse the council’s opposition to the Strategic Outline Case will be fiercely opposed.  The public expects their elected representatives to make sure a wide range of views and experiences are recorded, and that every effort is made to protect local services.”

Council offers Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group a place on “People’s Commission” into future of health and social care in Calderdale

Sarah Hardcastle, Calderdale Council PR and Internal Communications Officer for Customer Services, Communities, told Plain Speaker that Merran McRae, the Council’s Chief Executive, has written to the CCG offering them a place on the People’s Commission. As an alternative, Ms McRae has also offered them observer status.

Other members of the “People’s Commission” will include an independent Chair – yet to be appointed, two Councillors from each of the three main political parties and representation from Calderdale Healthwatch.

Sarah added,

“The People’s Commission will have no formal powers. It may choose to make recommendations to Council Cabinet, CCGs, NHS England or other bodies. It is likely that, as full Council established the People’s Commission, any report of the Commission will be presented to full Council.

“Council officers and members have met once with the chair and chief officer of the CCG to discuss the arrangements for the People’s Commission. The Council’s Chief Executive has established a project group to get the People’s Commission underway and a CCG officer is a member of the Project Group. This is very helpful in making sure that CCG engagement activities and the People’s Commission programme do not clash, for example.”

“People’s Commission” is separate from Scrutiny Panel inquiry into Strategic Outline Case

Questioned by Plain Speaker about how the “People’s Commission” will fit with the Adult Health and Social Care Scrutiny Panel’s external scrutiny of /inquiry into the local NHS organisations’ Strategic Outline Case, Sarah Hardcastle replied,

“It is important that the Adult Health and Social Care Scrutiny Panel is able to respond to any formal consultation from the two CCGs (Calderdale and Greater Huddersfield) on any proposals for substantive variation that may emerge, probably jointly with Kirklees Council. The project group is taking care to make sure that there is separation between these two activities so that any work of the Scrutiny Panel is not adversely affected by the People’s Commission.”

A joint Kirklees and Calderdale health scrutiny panels’ inquiry into the Strategic Outline Case /Business Outline Case was reported in the Huddersfield Examiner, but according to Sarah Hardcastle, apparently the inquiry has not yet started.

The reason for the delay is unclear. There is no reason why the Scrunity Panel should wait for the Clinical Commissioning Group’s formal consultation, before calling in the NHS providers to explain their “Right Care” proposals, but this is what Sarah Hardcastle implies they are doing.

Petition Scrutiny Panel to hold inquiry now

At a Special Council meeting last March, the Council unanimously voted to tell the NHS providers to withdraw their Strategic Outline Case proposals for “Right Care”, but the NHS providers refused. The Scrutiny Panel has the power to call in the NHS providers now to explain their proposals and the evidence it’s based on, before the consultation process, now.  It can also invite the public to give their views.

The scrutiny panel should use its systems of accountability. If they do use them, they’ve got considerable powers. An immediate inquiry can only have a positive outcome.
If there’s more logic to the proposals that there currently seems to be, this is a way for the NHS to open the books and explain their reasons.
If the evidence convinces the Scrutiny Panel that the Council was right to call on the Trust to withdraw the proposals, this will strengthen the evidence against the proposals that both the Council and the public will be able to produce during the consultation.

At last Saturday’s Halifax Gala, many members of the public signed a petition to Calderdale Adult Health and Social Care Scrutiny Panel asking them to call in the NHS organisations to a formal inquiry now, and Calderdale Trades Council also decided at its latest meeting to write to the Scrutiny Panel Chair asking them to call in the NHS organisations to explain their Strategic Outline Case proposals, and to invite the public to give their views.

Calderdale 38 Degrees stall at Halifax Gala

Council Leader announces great opportunity for people to have their say

Calderdale Council’s Leader, Cllr Tim Swift, said:

“The Commission will be an exciting mix of public participation and an evidence gathering panel with an independent Chair. This will then make recommendations about future health and social care services in Calderdale, based on the views and evidence which have been given.

“We want the People’s Commission to be driven by people’s experience and views. This is a great opportunity for people to have their say on how our health and social care services are provided in the coming years.”

Calderdale Council’s Chief Executive, Merran McRae said:

“Once the Commission members have been appointed we will make sure that there are lots of ways that people can tell us what they think – whether that’s by attending public meetings, sending us information, emailing us or contacting us via Twitter.”

The Council’s press release says,

“We would like to hear from residents about the key issues which they want the People’s Commission to debate. If you would like your views to be considered email us at:

The People’s Commission is expected to report its recommendations to Full Council and the CCG in autumn 2014.”

Note about “Right Care” drop in sessions

The “Right Care” drop in sessions referred to at the start of this article have  now ended. They were part of a “public engagement” that Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group, the Commissioning Support Unit and the 3 local NHS providers are currently carrying out about “Right Care” proposals to reduce costly acute and emergency hospital care in Calderdale and Huddersfield, and replace this by a new cheaper system of “care in the community” for patients with long term illnesses.

In April, Calderdale Cabinet approved proposals for a Council “People’s Commission”. At the time, Plain Speaker criticised the proposals on the grounds that they seemed to be appropriating the term “People’s Commission” to describe a common-or-garden Council consultation with unclear aims and purposes.

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