Are You Feeling Well

asks Alan Alexander


Let me start with something really positive. A survey by the internationally renowned Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has confirmed that the NHS is one of the best health care systems in the world and has been improving patient care for years. It says the NHS has “cut heart attack deaths by 66% since 1980, the public rarely have to pay to meet health needs and life expectancy is comparable to those of our European neighbours”. There is of course always room for improvement and there are areas such as the mortality rates for some cancers that need to be improved. But one of the key points in the report is that although the NHS is one of the best performers in the world, every five years the improvements are held back by two years. Why you ask? Well every time a government feels the need to show who’s boss they throw a bit of the NHS baby out with the bath water with another reorganisation! And of course we are in the middle of just such an upheaval now.

Am I being partisan? Well I know for sure I’m extremely glad that I’m not an employee of the NHS at the moment. With departments being closed down, jobs under threat, no clear idea whether the timetables for change running to 2013 will leave me with a job and my boss feeling uncertain it doesn’t make for a pleasant environment. Nevertheless our healthcare continues and day to day nurses, doctors, paramedics and NHS managers make our lives a little bit easier.

So what’s the state of play in our own patch in North Cumbria? It can’t have escaped your notice that the hospital trust is in some sort of financial mire. Basically hospitals receive an income based on the operations and treatment they carry out which is in turn based on a price list. Every year an estimate, yes, an estimate, is made of what they might do for patients. As a result there is protracted horse trading between the Primary Care Trust (soon to be groups of your GPs) and the Hospital Trust about what might happen in terms of treatment. If the figure is wrong and the hospital does too many procedures they are in the red. If they somehow improve productivity then they might break even or make a profit.

This year the trust planned to make £15m of savings, don’t ask me how or why, so far they have made £3m. This shortfall resulted in the hospital making public that it was considering, Ward closures to increase more efficient use of capacity Theatre productivity programme to address the 10 percent inefficiency in theatre usage Cessation of all locum consultant staff/reducing consultant PA payments and job plan variability Cessation of short-term staff contracts Further reductions in corporate management The results are due to be announced any moment. But whatever they are they will be insufficient to make up the shortfall in income and heads will probably roll yet again. Meanwhile the government refuses to help out the hospital in spite of its position in a rural area, with high health inequalities and covering two sites.

On Dec 2nd , Andrew Lansley the Secretary of State for Health , who was here in Cumbria said, “I did not deny there might be problems but there is a system in place to tackle them and I don’t consider the hospitals unsafe” Personally I find that more irresponsible than hands off. If you hear of an incident involving poor care please make sure you let someone know or else it’ll never be fixed. I suggest you contact any one of the following;

Cumbria LINk – Health watchdog – 01228 512 513
Dr Neil Goodwin – Hospital Trust Chief Executive – 01228 814010
Jamie Reed MP – 01946 816723

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