12 Dec 2011

County Health, Community and Care Scrutiny update

Scrutiny at the District Council on Thursday night covered a number of issues like the Police Reform Act - see here - in this blog I will cover the feedback we get in Stroud from the Health, Community and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee at the County - as the webcast was not working I will try to do a bit more detail than usual. I might even get a chance to do another blog on other issues we covered at the Thursday meeting......anyway we get feedback from our County representative at each Strategic and Overview Scrutiny meeting in Stroud - I am still working out how we can use this as it seems to have been more of a feedback of info meeting rather than a chance to change stuff. Worse still the report backs don't always happen as the representative doesn't attend our Scrutiny....

Thursday was not so different - the rep has resigned and the deputy was unable to attend so all we could do was raise issues resulting from minutes of their meetings. This is of course not so satisfactory. We need to look at replacing the rep. So what did I raise....well here is some with some additional notes...

Scrutiny misled?

Firstly I noted my concerns that SDC and the community maybe being misled by both our representative on the County Health, Community and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the NHS Chief Executive, Jan Stubbings. They have both indicated that the legal case to call for a rethink over the transfer of parts of the NHS including Stroud General Hospital to a social enterprise could speed up privatisation.

NHS Gloucestershire have also claimed in a letter to staff that "If taken to its logical conclusion the challenge would mean that community services would be competitively tendered” and that this “may therefore accelerate the very thing the challenger says he is opposed to namely the services being provided by a body outside the NHS."

However as I noted at the meeting a local solicitor and the Stroud Against the Cuts campaign have said that this is 'disingenuous and unhelpful' and that there are alternatives to privatisation. Indeed without the legal challenge, the transfer on October 1st would have resulted in the services being provided by a body outside the NHS – the CIC is a private limited company outside the NHS. Therefore rather than accelerating this process, the legal challenge has delayed it.

I asked for clarity from the NHS that this legal challenge by members of our community, if successful will mean that the Primary Care Trust will have to consider several options which would keep services and staff within the NHS. I was basically informed that legal opinions can vary and that the matter was now with solicitors...we'll see.

As an aside I have been urging folk to write to the NHS Glos about keeping our services public - see here - plus here you can see the video I edited of Wendy Savage's talk in Stroud.

Response to motion

The District have had the response to the District Councils' motion from the County. It seems the County have written strong letters of support for the transfer of responsibility for the delivery of services to the social enterprise organisation. I have spoken to literally dozens of people on this issue and it is clear people want their services kept within the NHS. I find it quite shocking that the public's view seems to have been ignored and the County just supported the changes.

As I've noted before on this blog past evidence suggests contracts when they are up for renewal will go to multinational companies, as has happened in Hull. As we know even the award-winning social enterprise Central Surrey Health could not compete for a contract for community services, and these are to be provided by a private healthcare company owned by Virgin.

The claim is that the changes are not substantial therefore the County Scrutiny need not look at it - well privatisation of our services is in my view very ‘substantial’ and has the potential for major change to services experienced by patients and future patients.

Total Place project

I asked about the Total Place report on the project in Dursley and am delighted that this will now be brought to our Scrutiny meeting. It is an exciting project that has the potential to improve how we deliver services to older people and how they can have a better say....

A related issue I noted was re the County's Performance report quarter 2 relating to personalisation. There is talk about people who are choosing personal budgets are getting less than the cost of the services they have been receiving. This could be viewed as cost cutting and is potentially giving personalisation a bad name. Personal budgets have some advantages like people will have more control over their lives, they can empower disatvantaged people and disempower obstructing local government. It is of course also true that personal budgets could allow individuals to purshase better and more appropriate services - that can be cheaper.

This issue needs more understanding about the impacts locally and I asked about what evidence is collected regarding the changes to people's funding when they are offered direct payments? Certainly if the project continues in the current way it will lead to personalisation getting a very bad name when in fact it could be a force for good.

Sorry this is quite a ramble and doesn't cover all the issues raised but is at least a flavour.....

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