The Care Quality Commission report following a major inspection of Hull Royal Infirmary found serious short falls in performance which compromise patient safety, and talked about a culture of bullying at the Trust. Save Our NHS Hull and several local councillors made the appropriate people aware, and the issue of Accident and Emergency not being up to scratch, along with serious concerns about the Acute Assessment Unit were flagged up in the local media more than a year ago. Nothing, it seems was done .
Once again the political class (with a few notable exceptions including the Labour Group on East Riding Council as a whole, some Hull City Labour Councillors and three Tory East Riding Councillors) were by and large inert to what was going on until there was political capital in it for themselves. Then they took the chance to raise their profile by speaking up. An important question must be asked. Were some of the elected representatives more concerned with making points against their political opponents than defending NHS workers and patients who are their constituents?
Further questions we need to ask include; is the Labour Front Bench health team and therefore Labour MPs as a whole stymied by the fact that a 2009 review commissioned by the then Labour Government and conducted by NHS supremo David Nicholson told the Health Secretary that £20 billion in efficiency saving were required ? Is the fact that the 2010 Labour Manifesto did not promise to ring fence NHS spending a factor in MPs not speaking out for fear that the coalition parties will bring this up?
You could be forgiven for concluding that fear of loss of political face in the short term trumps all other considerations. It seems that many speak out only when there is absolutely no risk involved. If something is wrong it should be pointed out there and then. A good example is the Bedroom Tax. Despite the immorality of the the spare room subsidy and hand wringing condemnation, it took Labour SIX MONTHS before they agreed to repeal it if elected in 2015.
This damning report has nothing to do with the continued dedication, hard work and empathy of the fantastic staff. It has everything to do with the abject failure of management to listen to and act upon the concerns raised by people working on the front line. In addition this report is an indictment of poor scrutiny by elected representatives who are meant to ensure that public services are running safely and efficiently. The problems with staff morale, and issues with A and E were in the public domain for a long period of time and were not addressed effectively.
Health Watch is also meant to oversee the local NHS on behalf of the community, yet it’s make up does not reflect the necessary input from everyday members of the public outside of the political class. A cursory glance at the website shows a depressing gallery of individuals who hoover up board memberships and the allowances that such positions attract. These boards should be made up of the Trade Unions, locally elected representatives, and include members selected at random from the electoral register with remuneration based on evidence such as receipts and employers letters. In addition all meetings should be widely advertised and held in public unless there are reasons around confidentiality for individuals. Let’s see how many of these people would want to carry on under changed conditions
We need real change with the staff and service users at the centre of what happens. The profit motive should be eliminated. Open and transparent local democracy must be extended into the NHS so everyone can have confidence that our hospitals are providing world class care as part of a world class NHS.
Here are five pledges I, (and others) would like to see politicians around here sign up to in the run up to 2015 and the General Election.
1. An end to private providers being involved in running NHS services. (This is not based on ideology. The fact is we’ve tried this way of doing things and it doesn’t work)
2. Reform of local NHS management to include a directly elected Health Commissioner, a reformed scrutiny board and real people to be involved with Health Watch.
3. Placing the Staff at the heart of the local NHS. There must be an end to bullying, and a real effort made to restore confidence in partnership with the Trade Unions and patient groups. A robust system to support staff which actually acts on their concerns must be set up. If exists already it’s clearly not working.
4. Hull Royal Infirmary buildings are clearly not fit for purpose. We call for the building of a new hospital for our City and region.
5. That representatives recognise that Hull suffers massive economic inequalities which have lead to huge health inequalities. Funding cuts to health services are a disgrace and Hull deserves a funding rebate. We call on representatives to fight for fair funding for the local NHS and associated services such as social care, and mental health provision.
(Views are mine alone)