Save Calderdale Royal Hospital campaigners are glad to find from Cllr Stephen Baine’s Talking Politics column in the 22nd Jan Halifax Courier, that he opposes NHS privatisation.
Cllr Baines criticises Labour’s Andy Burnham for his 2009 decision to offer Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon for sale both to NHS organisations and to the private sector.
This was the first time that private companies had been invited to bid to take over and run a large NHS hospital.
He also criticises the New Labour government for its renegotiation of GPs’ out of hours contracts, which – although he doesn’t say so – transferred control of primary care out of GPs’ hands, and handed it over to Primary Care Trusts.
Instead of working positively with GP co-operatives that had built up a great deal of expertise in organising out of hours cover, PCTs were often adversarial and generated conflict. This is what the NHS Confederation (the NHS managers’ own organisation) told the House of Commons Health Select Committee at the time.
Out of hours care privatisation has compromised patient care
In Buckinghamshire the GP cooperative was forced out of business overnight when the PCTs awarded the contract to a large company called Harmoni. In Cornwall the well-functioning Kernowdoc was passed over in favour of Serco. Both Harmoni and Serco have since been the subject of major complaints and in particular have been accused of failing to employ enough doctors.
In 2012 a parliamentary report by the Public Accounts Committee found that in its out of hours contract with Kernow NHS, Serco failed to meet national standards, falsified data and had a “bullying culture”.
The British Medical Association said the situation in Cornwall demonstrated “a complete breakdown” in the system which was supposed to ensure that patient care would not be compromised when NHS services were taken over by a non-NHS provider.
Last year Serco was forced to hand back its out of hours contract in Cornwall – exactly as Circle, the private company that took over Hinchingbrooke Hospital, recently handed back its contract to the NHS.
So Cllr Baines has good reason to be a stern critic of NHS privatisation. Which is to be applauded. Especially since it takes courage for a politician to stand out against his own party’s policy.
NHS sell offs threaten our mental health Trust and hospitals Trust
And, no mistake about it, the Coalition government’s 2012 Health & Social Care Act has greatly extended and speeded up NHS privatisation.
At our NHS mental health Trust’s Annual General Meeting last autumn, one of the Trust’s members asked if there was now a risk that the Trust could be privatised by stealth.
The Trust’s Chair, Ian Black, replied that the new commissioning model used by the Clinical Commissioning Group is a risk to the Trust, because it brings private companies much more into the provision of NHS services.
But Save Calderdale Royal Hospital campaigners wonder why – since Cllr Baines is so opposed to NHS privatisation – he doesn’t extend his criticisms of NHS sell offs to Calderdale Council’s and Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group’s privatisation of our local NHS services?
Cllr Baines calls for a grown up debate. This means putting forward coherent and consistent views.
So surely the rational Cllr Baines must accept that if NHS privatisation was bad under the New Labour government, it must also be bad under the Coalition government.
Why does he not question Calderdale Council’s privatisation of the Schools Nursing Service, which was until recently provided by our NHS hospitals Trust but which the Council has now sold off to Locala?
Why does he not criticise local NHS commissioners’ decision to take away Wheelchair Services from our NHS hospitals Trust and sell them off to the private company Opcare?
Why does he not criticise the privatisation of part of Calderdale’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) ? From January 2014, Calderdale Council and Calderdale NHS commissioners outsourced CAMHS community services to a charity, Leeds Counselling Services, cutting some services in the sell off process because there was no longer enough money for them
Why does Cllr Baines not criticise the recent privatisation of Nottingham University Hospitals Trust dermatology services, which were forced to close after being sold off to Circle?
This is the company that recently handed back Hinchingbrooke Hospital to the NHS, as the Care Quality Commission damned the quality of care Circle provided and Circle was losing money on running the hospital.
The Nottingham Hospital dermatology doctors refused to transfer out of the NHS to Circle -as they had warned they would, if the service was sold off to Circle. No doctors, no dermatology services.
Why does Cllr Baines not criticise this NHS sell off disaster?
Why does he not criticise the privatising agenda that’s driving the so-called Right Care Right Place Right Time shake up of Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS and social care?
This is the proposal that the NHS Commissioners were supposed to consult the public on last summer, but after loud and prolonged public protests, decided not to consult us about?
A decision that lawyers have advised campaigners was illegal.
Elsewhere in the country, setting up the “Right Care” system has seen massive contracts put out to “competitive tender”, to be scooped up by private health care companies.
For example, in the East Midlands there has been a £1,222,000,000 sell off of Stafford’s NHS cancer and end of life services to Private Health, for a shake up that is nearly identical to the Right Care proposals in Calderdale and Huddersfield.
This Stafford privatisation contract is supported by the government ‘Major Projects’ department, and is promoted by the Conservative government as a new model for privatised cancer delivery across country.
We have questioned Calderdale NHS commissioners about whether this will happen here, if they go ahead and set up the “Right Care” system. We haven’t had a clear answer.
The Chief Officer Dr Matt Walsh told us:
“It’s not quite as straightforward as selling off everything in the new service model.
There are competition requirements that the Clinical Commissioning Group has to take account of and follow the law.
Any approaches to the market would need to be part of the public consultation.
But our intent is to work with our strategic partners.”
Chair of Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group Dr Alan Brooks has contradicted Dr Walsh, saying
“We don’t have any loyalty to existing providers.”
Martin Pursey, Head of Contracting & Procurement at Calderdale CCG, said that Monitor – the NHS “market” regulator and competition enforcer – will want evidence about the procurement process for the new “Right Care” services and that the CCG will be
“treating providers equally and not discriminating”.
August 2015 decision date for our NHS community health services sell off
The CCG’s position about selling off our NHS community health services became much clearer at the 27 January AHSC Scrutiny Panel.
Without giving any sign that they understood the implications of what they heard, the 27 January meeting of the Adults Health and Social Care Scrutiny Panel heard from the Clinical Commissioning Group that they have presented our NHS hospitals Trust with new specifications for their community health services, which will be written into their contracts from 1 April 2015.
Asked if the Trust were happy to accept these new specifications – the so-called Phase 1 Care Closer to Home specifications – the CCG Head of Service Improvement Debbie Graham said that the CCG has the Trust over a barrel:
“The providers are going along with this because their future’s tied up with this because the CCG could go to market Greater Huddersfield CCG has done.”
If the newly specified community health services don’t reduce hospital admissions by July, the CCG will meet in August to decide “what to do about the providers”, in Ms Graham’s words.
Since the evidence is that care closer to home schemes don’t reduce hospital admissions, it seems that the CCG is setting up our NHS trust to fail.
Then they can sell off our NHS community health services while still claiming that they tried to work with their “strategic partners” – in the words of CCG Chief Officer Matt Walsh, and that they have treated “providers equally” in the words of Martin Pursey. While also bearing out Dr Brook’s claim to have “no loyalty to existing providers”.
Feeble Scrutiny Panel fails to do its job
But our feeble Scrutiny Panel Councillors let this wash over them. They should tell the CCG to stop the implementation of Phase 1 of Care Closer to Home now and hold a formal public consultation.
Because Phase 1 clearly has the potential to amount to a significant change, if it leads to the sell off of our NHS community services – as it probably will, the way the cards are falling. And a formal public consultation is legally required before any significant change is made.
That means a formal consultation must happen now, to see if the public are happy to open the door to the possibility that come August, the CCG will decide to sell off our NHS community services.
The sell off off our NHS community services would put the future of our hospitals at risk. The hospitals Trust are already being investigated by Monitor – the NHS “market regulator” and competition enforcer – because the hospital faces a deficit at the end of this financial year as a result of being unable to make enough cuts to produce massive efficiency savings, made worse by the loss of a number of community health services which the Council and CCG have already sold off.
Instead of telling the CCG to stop pushing the Phase 1 Care Closer to Home contracts onto our NHS providers, and consult the public, the Scrutiny Panel meekly invited Debbie Graham to ask Matt Walsh if the CCG plans to consult the public in April 2016 – by which time massive damage may well have been done to our hospital, if the CCG decides in August 2015 that they are going to sell off its community health services.
Last summer, fed up with the NHS Commissioners’ evasiveness and their decision to go ahead with their Right Care/Care Closer to Home plans without consulting the public – which lawyers have said is an illegal decision – I presented Calderdale Council’s Adults Health and Social Care Scrutiny Panel with a public petition that called on the Panel to scrutinise the Right Care NHS shake up proposals.
The 120 people who signed the petition might just as well not have bothered – except this has shown how feeble the Scrutiny Panel is. So we need to kick them out and elect some better Councillors.
Two of them – Cllrs Draycott and Pillai – are up for re-election this May.
Councillors have the power, through the Scrutiny Panel and through the Calderdale and Kirklees Joint Health Scrutiny Panel, to tell the NHS Commissioners to consult the public now, and to refer to the Secretary of State the Right Care proposals that they unanimously decided last spring were unfit for the people of Calderdale.
They also have the duty to use those powers in order to prevent damage to our local NHS.
Cllr Baines, Why is the Council that you lead not fulfilling its responsibilities?
We don’t need any more debates about the NHS. We need Councillors to take action to stop the privatisation rot that’s infesting Calderdale NHS.