That wasn’t a consultation…

From the Save Southend NHS Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SaveSouthendNHS/

Thank you to the very knowledgeable and well respected member of our local community, Sherry Fuller, who is highly experienced in pubic consultations. Here are her thoughts after attending the #SAVS STP discussion event on Monday.

Thought about today’s consultation event at SAVS re STP is that it wasn’t a consultation event.

At best, it was a communication event. Two communication leads went through some slides that gave broad information about some of the elements of the STP project. There was a short amount of time afterwards for a few questions from the floor. These questions were recorded as ‘feedback’ from the event.

This isn’t consultation.

The ideal: participants given materials pertinent to the consultation ahead of the event to allow time to peruse and formulate questions. The brochure we were given today – which was barely referenced to during the event – wasn’t a clear consultation document, it was what I would consider a publicity brochure.

At the event itself, I would expect facilitated round table conversations, about clear and complete proposals, giving the opportunity for everyone present to have a say. Facilitators should make efforts to accurately record comments, concerns, questions and ideas.

What I saw today was a good attempt by SAVS to summarise themes arising in questions from a few participants and SAVS taking notes. I didn’t notice much, if any, recording from the communication leads themselves.

As a member of the public what I want from a consultation event or activity is clarity about:

– What changes are proposed
– What options are up for consideration and how those options were arrived at (there was some of this today)
– What is and isn’t included within the scope of this consultation (this was the biggest failure point – people kept asking questions that we were told weren’t applicable to this part of the project.)
– What my opportunity is to influence the proposals and how I can do this.

There wasn’t time today for participants to peruse proposals, which were not clear anyway – most of the communication was around five key principles. Principles don’t tell me enough about what’s proposed to be changed) – and we therefore couldn’t respond in a meaningful way. It wasn’t at all clear what was and wasn’t in scope.

Furthermore the meeting started half hour late cutting short discussion time.

When people asked for detail – they were referred to the official consultation document which I understand can be found on line.

I reinforced what was said by others – to allow time for ‘intelligent consideration ‘(which includes time for consultees to prepare a response) the deadline of 9 March should be extended.

However, the event leads felt that sufficient consultation has been carried out and that the deadline is unlikely to move.

If other ‘consultation events’ have been of the same format as today’s, then I would argue that this is more communications and PR than it is consultation. Giving a presentation and then fielding a few questions isn’t consultation.’

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More views on the 8th February Sustainability & Transformation Partnership ‘consultation’

From the Save Southend NHS Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SaveSouthendNHS/

Campaigners Slam Flawed Consultation

Local health service campaigners who attended a consultation event organised by the Mid and South Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership in Southend’s Cliffs Pavilion on 8th February about the future of regional NHS services condemned NHS leaders for failing to give credible answers over their plans.

The changes are designed to plug a predicted £500 million funding gap across the area. Critical services, including stroke, emergency orthopaedic surgery and others, are to be removed from Southend Hospital and relocated to either Basildon Hospital or Chelmsford’s Broomfield Hospital. The plans assume that it will be possible to keep patients away from hospital by using unspecified technology to develop ‘self service’ and allowing people other than GPs to deliver ‘primary’ healthcare.

Hundreds of critically-ill patients who can no longer be treated locally will have to be transported to other hospitals across the road network.

Transport plans ‘meaningless’

Senior managers who presented the plans were repeatedly asked to explain how their grand scheme could be delivered given a stunning lack of detail in their proposals.

One member of the public asked if a study of the traffic issues involved in transport across busy roads including the A13, A127 and A130 had been undertaken. Ronan Fenton, speaking for the STP claimed that it had, but could not explain what it said or why he had not presented it to the meeting.

Campaigners believe this makes a mockery of ‘consultation’ when the problem of being able to transport seriously ill people across the area is clearly a critical issue. If an appropriate transport service is not delivered then patients will quite simply be at risk and the overall STP plan may fail. It was pointed out that the East of England Ambulance Service were not even represented at the event. We wonder how the public can be asked to give a considered opinion when they were given no evidence to go on?

Despite repeated questions, no concrete proposals were made about who would provide transport or how this could be done safely given that the Ambulance Service is already severely overstretched and struggling to recruit and retain paramedics.
Where are staff to come from?

Health staff and public all asked how the STP could guarantee that new staff with specialist skills can be recruited when there is a crisis in recruitment across the NHS. Speakers simply said that ‘it will be tough’ and ‘it will be a challenge’.

The experience of recent changes to NHS services is that they can have a negative effect on staff. For instance, in the ‘Pathology First’ service, which took microbiology skills away from Southend Hospital, there has recently been a mass resignation of ten staff. This hotly-contested change was also supposed to be a ‘centralisation’ and ‘specialisation’ of health services which has utterly failed to deliver an improvement and which has actually led to the recent scandal over incorrect cervical cancer tests.

‘Pie in the sky’ assumptions

The current proposals will have a massive impact on the shape of NHS services across Mid and South Essex. We were told that without them there would be a catastrophic gap in funding. However, the solutions proposed all depend on plans which have little substance.

There is a crisis in social care, cuts to Public Health budgets and a chronic shortage of GPs but the STP assumes that local government and ‘community’ services will improve social and primary care to keep patients away from A&E in order for the new hospital configuration to work!

Once patients are in hospital, the STP then assumes that ‘bed blocking’ can be dealt with. However we are in a climate where in Southend, a residential care home can be closed in favour of a boutique hotel and where serious consideration has been given to using “Air B’n’B” style services to discharge patients.

We believe it is clear that even where proposals may be welcome, such as the specialist stroke facility to be provided at Basildon, outcomes for patients may be worse unless adequate services are provided locally. The specialists at the meeting were clear that without the ability to assess patients thoroughly 24/7 at a local hospital, all a central facility might mean was that vital life-saving time would be lost in transferring vulnerable stroke patients to Basildon.

The STP’s plans gave no answers on key areas barring vague assurances and the Save Southend NHS campaign queries the realism of the assumptions they laid out.

Not democratic

Campaigners were dismayed to hear senior NHS staff say that any decision would not be ‘democratic’ and that the consultation was not ‘a referendum’. Indeed, when pressed as to why the merger of the three hospital trusts had not been consulted on, we were told that the NHS were consulting on the current STP proposals because they ‘had to’. This gives us no confidence that the STP see the consultation as anything but a ‘tick box’ exercise which does not give the public any real say in what happens to our services.

A spokesperson for the save Southend NHS Campaign commented:

“It seems frankly incredible that a consultation which makes such a big difference to our health services told us almost nothing concrete about how any changes would be achieved.

How dare the STP fail to even provide any evidence about the safety of something as basic as transporting critically-ill patients between hospitals?

Whether it was on staffing, on a transport service, on GP services or on the back up for the proposed specialist stroke unit, the STP just can’t tell us how services will be delivered or how they will achieve improvements for patients while saving vast amounts of money.

The presentation missed out the fact that £30 million a year has to be saved at each hospital and the senior NHS representatives tried to wriggle their way out of admitting that even the £118 million of capital funding they have trumpeted is not actually guaranteed at all!

We have warned all along that these changes are motivated by the need to make huge savings across the local NHS. We are urging people to attend their local consultation events and to ask questions about the impact of the plans, but we are very worried that the public consultation can’t be meaningful in any real way when the plans are so vague and when so much is left unexplained.

We think local councils and MPs need to stand up for their constituents’ interests and demand that that this process is halted. Let’s at least have a consultation based on some real information and with some proper evidence.

We’re worried that if the changes go forward as proposed, they will be a disaster for the NHS that we need and a threat to patient safety.”

Sign the petition HERE: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-mid-south-essex-stp-downgrading-southend-hospital#SaveSouthendNHS

CAMPAIGNERS TO DEMONSTRATE IN CHELMSFORD HIGH STREET THIS SATURDAY

From the Defend Our NHS – Chelmsford, Mid-Essex Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/defendourae/

Midday (near Lloyds/Waterstones)

Health campaigners will be in the middle of Chelmsford High Street (near Lloyds/Waterstones) this Saturday (17th February) from midday to protest against plans to a cut a further £400 million from health budgets over the next few years, and a proposal as part of these plans to merge Broomfield Hospital with the hospitals in Southend and Basildon. The protest will be addressed by health campaigners, and passing members of the public will be asked to sign letters of protest for their local MPs. The protest comes during an ongoing consultation into proposed changes into health services locally.

‘Our NHS is not failing, but it is being failed by this government’s underfunding’, said Defend Our NHS Chelmsford campaign coordinator Andy Abbott. ‘We will be sending out a clear message on Saturday. No Cuts. No privatisation. No merger.’

‘After seven years of cuts our NHS is already bleeding and on its knees’ continued Mr Abbott. ‘It will not survive further cuts via the government’s so called Sustainability & Transformation Partnership [STP] programme. Despite all the spin, a look at the Mid & South Essex STP’s current consultation document reveals the truth, as it talks about “closing our financial gap”, “address[ing] the financial challenges”, “to live within our means” and “more economical ways” to deliver local health services. Even in their own words, and despite previous promises by the government to keep the NHS free from austerity, the proposed changes are driven by cuts.’

‘It is also worth noting at what the same consultation document says about merging Broomfield, Basildon, and Southend hospitals,’ Mr Abbott pointed to. ‘While it talks about a closer working relationship, it warns about “averting the disruption caused by a formal merger at this time”. So why have they changed their minds? And why so quickly? What has changed in just a few months? The proposed merger also makes something of a mockery of the current consultation process.’

Waiting for a response…

From the Save Basildon NHS Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/livesatstake/

On Monday, local trade unionists sent this letter to the NHS success regime and local media – they are now waiting for a response.

From: Basildon and Thurrock trades Union Council

To: Clare Panniker, CEO Mid and South Essex Hospitals Trust, Mid and South Essex Success Regime

Dear Ms Panniker

I am writing to ask that the Mid and South Essex “success regime” takes urgent steps to organise an open-to all public meeting in Basildon, to begin a period of consultation with local people about the enormous shortfall in funding that the NHS is facing.

We are very concerned that the “Success Regime” in mid and south Essex seems to be committed to substantial cuts in funding. We are concerned that the size of the cuts that are planned is unclear – ranging from a global figure of £150m on the SR’s website, to a figure of £100m stated to local health campaigners at a meeting on 17/10/17. We are concerned that the shape of those planned cuts is also unclear – especially since the Regime dramatically withdrew its plans to downgrade two out of three A&E units in July 2017, and has yet to publish new ones – though a reference was made to the possible closure of operating theatres in Basildon at the meeting of 17/10/17. All we seem to know for sure is that the cuts are coming and that they will be substantial.

Sir Simon Stevens, the Chief executive of NHS England has called for an emergency injection of £4bn to rescue the health service from an acute crisis. In the same speech, to the NHS Providers conference on 8 November, he called for funding increases of £20 to £30 billion to bring NHS spending in line with French or German levels.

Any meaningful consultation must be open to discussing this view – that one of our options is to fully fund the NHS as a comprehensive and free to use public healthcare system. What we don’t want is a pretend consultation on plans that are already finalised. We do not share the Success Regime’s optimism that access to GP services can be restricted, hospital services can be trimmed, increased demands can be made on social care provision without unacceptable consequences for the quality of treatment and care, and its availability for those without the means to pay.

David Murray
President, Basildon and Thurrock Trades Union Council

Accident & Emergency departments under threat

As a result of continuing austerity, the NHS in mid and south Essex is set to lose £450m by 2020. The plans for the re-organisation that this loss will trigger have been named by some twisted joker as the “Success Regime”.

Part of the plan is to close two out of three Accident & Emergency units in the region so that they no longer take what Dr. Ronan Fenton, Medical Director of the Mid/South Essex “Success Regime” defines as “serious and life threatening cases”. The three hospitals under threat are Basildon, Chelmsford and Southend. Whichever hospital ends up with the only fully functioning A&E department in the region will have to cope with three times as many serious cases as they do at present. When you think of the issues that hospitals in the region have already had and the number of black alerts that have been declared, the future looks pretty grim.

The three hospitals under threat are in a region where the population is increasing. As the population increases, traffic levels will also increase. So regardless of where the only fully functioning A&E department ends up, journey times will be lengthened. In a medical emergency, a difference of a few minutes in the times it takes an ambulance to get to a hospital can be a matter of life or death. Leaving a region with a growing population and increasing levels of traffic congestion with just one A&E is going to cost lives.

There is a campaign to stop these callous, life threatening closures and hold those proposing them to account. Here are the links with information on how you can get involved:

https://www.facebook.com/livesatstake/

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-basildon-a-e