Tuesday, 4 September 2007

A&E; petition – Downing Street’s woeful response

Last month over 5000 people signed a petition posted on the Number 10 website calling for the reconsideration of proposals which will see the downgrading of Maidstone Hospital’s A&E; service. Today Downing Street replied. As you will see below the response is woeful. It is total fluff! The reply, quite clearly drafted by some civil servant in Whitehall who has never been to Maidstone, possibly even Kent, doesn’t even mention Maidstone Hospital. It is some identikit response to probably a number of petitions lamenting this Government’s cuts in NHS services across the UK. I am horrified. The 5000 people who took time out of their lives to go on to the Number 10 website to sign a petition, because they firmly believe that their blue light service should be nearby and not 40 minutes down the road, deserve much better than this. I think this response tells you all you need to know about this Government.

The Government’s response
Although the Department of Health provides strategic leadership to the NHS and social care organisations in England, it is for local NHS organisations to plan, develop and improve services
for local people. These bodies are therefore best placed to respond to patients’ concerns and needs. However, the Government has made it clear to the NHS that any changes to the configuration of local services should not compromise patient care and should show how the quality of care will continue to improve further in the future. Local services must continue to meet patient safety requirements and the standards set in National Service Frameworks and should demonstrate how they will use improvements in medical technology and techniques in future.
The Government is halfway through a ten-year plan to provide a modern NHS, responsive to patient needs and focusing equally on promotion of health and well-being, as well as the treatment of ill health. So far, the NHS has been leading the change, focusing on increasing capacity with more staff and more facilities. As a result, hospital waiting lists are now the lowest since records began, early deaths from cancer and coronary heart disease continue to fall and
patients have more choice and involvement in their own care. The White Paper Our Health, Our Care, Our Say: a new direction for community services focuses on a strategic shift that locates more services in local communities and closer to people’s homes.
Similarly, the Department of Health’s clinical reports, such as Mending Hearts and Brains and Emergency Access – Clinical Case for Change outline the opportunities to change acute hospital care in order to deliver the best possible services in future. These proposals build on the improvements that have already been made to health and social care and will reinforce the
Government’s existing programme of reform.
Plans for the future configuration of acute services provided across the south east have not been determined at a national level. Any proposals for change that may be put forward by local NHS
organisations will be subject to extensive consultation with local people. This discussion phase will inform the proposals, and any significant service changes proposed will be subject to the full public consultation which is expected to take place in the autumn. The decision for the future service pattern will then rest with the Primary Care Trust (PCT), which will analyse the responses and decide which course of action to take.
Should formal public consultation be required, the PCT’s final decision will be subject to scrutiny from the local authority overview and scrutiny committee (OSC), which is made up of elected
local councillors. If the OSC determines that the consultation has been inadequate or that the proposal itself is flawed, it can refer the decision to the Secretary of State who has committed to asking for an independent expert clinical opinion form the Government’s Independent Review Panel for any cases referred to him.

1 comment:

Cllr John Ward said…

Yes, you are right about this being a standard response. I can tell you, from my many years in the Civil Service, that it is indeed a standard response, “boilerplated” where necessary from standard paragraphs/sections/chunks of text.

As Tony Blair used to do at Prime Minister’s Questions, whenever any kind of criticism of some aspect of the Health Service was raised, the blame is shifted to the local PCT, council or similar.

Incidentally, this “fall guys” approach was also part of the reason for pushing Regional Assemblies: when something went well, the government would take the credit, but when something went wrong it was the Assembly that would effectively be blamed. That was the intention all along.

The whole set-up is rotten to the core, and must — must! — be replaced as soon as possible. That can never happen under a Labour government, as it’s endemic to the way that party operates.