Shropshire's national & local politicians must join together to support our NHS

1 January 2016

NHS fundingThe Christmas number one slot for the NHS Choir demonstrates the high regard and importance the British public continues to place on one of the most efficient and effective systems of healthcare in the world. It is a pity, therefore, that one of our two local councils seeks to advantage its residents to the detriment of other parts of the county by funding a campaign to keep Telford’s A&E open regardless of the fate of that at Shrewsbury, while all that the other council can do is appeal for reliance on the eventual outcome of the discredited Future Fit programme.

To make matters worse – and having effectively closed down Apley Ward, PRH’s only bedded ‘isolation’ ward and well-placed to handle patients recovering from orthopaedic and other surgical procedures – Shropshire acute hospital managers have wheeled private provider Vanguard Healthcare’s [see Note 1] mobile ward and operating theatre into the car park in an eleventh-hour bid to ease ‘winter pressures’.

Such a desperate measure can only be a reaction to the failure to adequately plan for and provide enough ‘safety margin’ to deal with this year’s entirely predictable winter pressures – no different thus far to any previous year.

And why has the planning and providing not happened? Because the Government’s tariff of health funding through Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Health simply fails to provide enough cash for Shropshire’s widely distributed rural and urban populations.

With at least 80% of NHS trusts forecasting deficits, haemorrhage by a thousand cuts is already happening across health and social care and looks set to continue despite the additional emergency NHS funding released earlier this month:

1. Many of our family, friends and neighbours are being made to wait in pain because funding for hip and knee surgery – some of the most cost-effective surgery – is being cut in Shropshire, regardless of the latest ‘portacabin’ provision.

2. Patients who are well enough to move out of hospital wards are not able to do so for lack of sufficient carers and care packages, as budget cuts to local Councils damage social services and care in the home. Before Christmas, the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital had some 65 patients ready but unable to be discharged.

3. Patients who should be cared for ‘closer to home’ (the Future Fit mantra) are being discharged miles away because of lack of available beds in our five community hospitals.

We support and applaud the representations made by Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, but while the emergency £3.8 billion funding secured by NHS head Simon Stevens at the start of the month is vital, we ask how much of this will come to Shropshire?

Commenting today, John Crowe, South Shropshire Green Party, said:

Far too many elements of Shropshire’s healthcare are currently under extreme pressure, from failing Category A ambulance responses, to delayed referrals and operations, and slow discharge of patients from hospitals.

This is placing unreasonable pressures on doctors, nurses, carers and administrators; their willingness to continue to wrestle with inadequate provision is committed, brave and professional and is consistently lauded by so many patients, as the NHS Choir’s success amply demonstrates. In the UK, the sixth-richest country in the world, which achieves the healthcare it does for just 9.3% of its GDP, we must spend more to relieve these acute pressures.

Shropshire’s Green Parties have written to all five of the county’s MPs and to its two Council Leaders asking them to combine and redouble their efforts to persuade Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Health to change Shropshire’s health tariff to reflect (a) the rural distribution, and (b) the age demographic of the county’s population. Unless this additional cost burden is recognised and mitigated by more funding, quite simply more of our families, friends and neighbours will be denied necessary healthcare and suffer worse health outcomes.

Furthermore, the county’s three Green Parties call upon Telford & Wrekin and Shropshire Councils to start working together for the common good, by forming a co-operative committee, comprised of Council Chairs and respective Council leads of health and care portfolios, and campaigning to keep fulltime, full-spectrum A&E functions at both of our hospitals.”

The Shropshire Star gave coverage to this story here.

For further information, please contact John Crowe on 07851 760443.


Note 1.

Profile: Vanguard Healthcare

Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Brockworth, Gloucester, Vanguard’s key service is the hire of mobile operating theatres, dedicated mobile endoscopy units, wards, and clinics to public and private hospitals. The company’s latest accounts show a £1.15m profit on sales of £13.85m in 2014, a rise of more than 20 per cent. Its 60 staff – 38 technical and 22 administrative – earned an average of over £57,000.

Vanguard Executive Chairman and co-founder Andrew Allen, a chartered accountant, spent the past 20 years as owner/manager of healthcare businesses. According to Vanguard’s website, “three of these businesses were backed by private equity, and realised returns upon exit well in excess of 30 per cent p.a. for investors”.

In 2014, Somerset’s Musgrove Park Hospital faced a slew of legal claims from dozens of NHS patients who say they were left with problems including blurred vision, pain and swelling after undergoing cataract removal operations at a unit run by Vanguard Healthcare, which operated on the hospital site. Lawyers for some of the patients, most of whom were elderly and vulnerable, said it was likely the NHS Trust would have to pay for any successful compensation claims – meaning that the taxpayer would be footing the bill [].