Sarah Stock says,
Dear Lincolnshire Councillors, Health Scrutiny Committee, Lincolnshire MP’s, Press and other interested parties,
Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire, (local, regional and national campaign to raise awareness of our NHS) met in London at the House of Commons with MP’s on Monday, 10th September 2018 with fellow campaigners from around the country to present evidence to MP’s of the serious flaws in scrutiny and inadequate referral process to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), which need urgent national review. This is not just a local issue.
NHS Organisations are making substantial changes in service variation without telling their local Health Scrutiny Committee of their plans and evidence is mounting that Health Scrutiny itself is inadequate and processes flawed, with partial and inaccurate evidence being submitted to the IRP, who themselves then fail to respond in a timely and efficient manner, considering the importance and urgent nature of the referrals relating to service provision and cuts to our vital health services.
A good geographical and political party representation of MP’s was present to hear campaign evidence from several counties, experiencing cuts to their Accident and Emergency Departments, downgrading of Paediatric and Maternity services and centralisation of services from an average of three hospitals per county into one, with hospital closures, reduction of bed capacity and with increased travel times and little consideration made for alternative service provision. One of our Lincolnshire MP’s Matt Warman, Skegness and Boston attended the meeting, which in light of what is happening to Pilgrim Hospital, Boston’s Paediatric, Maternity and Neonatal services, was important for him to do so. Karen Lee, MP for Lincoln apparently sent her apologies verbally due to a prior engagement. All other Lincolnshire MP’s invited to attend, failed to respond to the invite.
Many thanks to 999 Call to the NHS campaign group for chairing the meeting and for Paula Sherriff MP (Labour, Dewsbury) for facilitating the meeting and thanks to the following MP’s who attended and listened to the evidence presented by campaigners and debated the IRP process: Rosie Cooper MP, Government Health Select Committee Member (Labour, West Lancashire), Norman Lamb MP (Liberal Democrat, North Norfolk), Anne Marie Trevelyan MP (Conservative, Berwick-upon-Tweed), Mike Hill MP (Labour, Hartlepool), Sandy Martin MP (Labour, Ipswich), Eleanor Smith MP (Labour, Wolverhampton SW), Margaret Greenwood MP (Labour, Wirral West), Liz Twist MP (Labour, Blaydon), Barry Sheerman (Labour, Huddersfield), Toby Perkins MP (Labour, Chesterfield) and Matt Warman MP (Conservative, Boston and Skegness, Lincolnshire)
Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire Co-Founder, Melissa Darcey evidenced the IRP referral from our own Lincolnshire Health Scrutiny Committee, which sees delay, after “convenient” delay being played out, while services continue to be removed from our hospitals and the unanimously rejected Lincolnshire Sustainability and Transformation Plan, now Partnership seemingly being implemented before our very eyes.
Below is the latest summary of events via a Facebook link to Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire, which needs further investigation as it would seem that Council Codes of Conduct and “due process” is not being followed, by neither the Health Scrutiny Committee, nor the Department of Health, Secretary of State for Health, or Independent Reconfiguration Panel.
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“The Lincs Health Scrutiny Committee Chair, Cllr Carl Macey, has told Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire that yesterday (10th Sept) the Scrutiny Officer told him that the final submission of the referral documents was only sent to Neil Townley at the Department of Health on the 15th of March, as it had to be signed off by Lincs County Council’s legal representative first.
The Scrutiny Officer has now confirmed that they’ve still not heard anything further from Matt Hancock.
The Scrutiny Officer also told Cllr Macey that:
“It is usual practice to pass referrals to the IRP, and to notify the Chairman that this has happened. In the case of the previous Grantham referral the submission was sent on 15 Dec 2016; Christine Talbot was advised on 22 Feb 17, that the IRP would be required to prepare an initial assessment within one month, which they did…
So it is likely to be the case that the referral has not yet been referred to the IRP.”
In fact it’s not “LIKELY” – the IRP secretary has told us that the Dept of Health has told them NOWT about the 2018 referral.
The Scrutiny Officer then added
“The correspondence with the civil servant [Neil Townley] indicated that there was some unwillingness to progress this referral.”
Why has Lincs Health Scrutiny Committee not acknowledged this – and allowed this vital issue to slide?
As they knew from the first referral that it took 2 months from submitting the referral to being told by the Department of Health that they had commissioned the IRP to prepare an initial assessment within a month, WHY DID THEY NOT GET BACK TO THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH IN MID MAY TO CHECK PROGRESS – 2 MONTHS AFTER THE FINAL SUBMISSION OF THE REFERRAL? ”
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There appears to have been very little effort made to chase up the request to refer to the IRP and if it were not for the continued pressure applied by campaigners locally and nationally, it is felt that this would not have been followed up. Considering the experience we had with the previous referral, where there were unnecessary delays in receiving a response, one would think that the Chair or Health Scrutiny Officer would have followed this up more robustly.
We also feel that we have been let down by the Department of Health who have not followed due process in referring to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel. The evidence shows that the Department of Health should have notified the IRP that a request had been made before evaluating the request and deciding whether it is acceptable to refer and on this occasion they did not notify the IRP.
The untimely removal of the previous knowledgeable Chair of Health Scrutiny, Christine Talbot, at such a crucial time in our county’s “reconfiguration” of health care has led to questions being asked of Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, who removed her from the position, and to date no answer for the reason for this, despite repeated requests, has been afforded to either the public or the press.
Christine’s knowledge and vast experience of the IRP process was invaluable, as was her ability to effectively scrutinise and challenge decisions relating to our health care and the safety and well-being of the people of Lincolnshire. Her absence has not gone unnoticed. I can only summise that she was removed in this untimely manner, for fear of her further challenging the removal of our vital services in Lincolnshire.
Current Health Scrutiny Chair, Carl Macey has stated that there will be a letter revealed at the Health Scrutiny Committee Meeting today, Wednesday 12th September, apparently relating to the referral to the Secretary of State for Health on Grantham’s A & E closure becoming permanent. Concerned members of the public will be in attendance to see what this letter reveals, as there are many current and future detrimental plans being implemented across Lincolnshire, which are not in the best interest of the public, but seem simply to meet budgetary requirements. My mind boggles at what announcement is going to made at Health Scrutiny Meeting on Wednesday 12th September 2018 at Lincoln County Council Offices. Meeting starts at 10am for those interested in the future of our hospital and social care services in Lincolnshire.
Campaign groups will continue to scrutinise and challenge local, regional and national plans if they are felt not to be in the interest of the county or country, fail in duty of care to provide appropriate or accessible NHS services in accordance with the constitution of the NHS and will continue to educate and inform the public and other interested parties on matters relating to health care and service provision locally, regionally and nationally. The Government Health Select Committee have been asked to look at the work of the IRP and further updates via campaign groups and lobbying of MP’s will be forthcoming, as we join the dots and piece the puzzle of our over-complicated and seemingly “unaccountable” health and social care system together.
Aptly named “Is Anyone Listening?”, it really is time that decision-makers and those elected into positions of trust to be voice of the public in every county….listen… and listen very carefully. Afford those asking the questions and challenging the systemic removal of our health services, not only with the courtesy of listening, but by responding and acting upon the knowledge and experience they possess and utilise this knowledge in the decision-making process. Further information and press release and photographs from 999 Call for the NHS to follow.