Keeping the NHS local

Martin campaigning for local health services

It has never been more important to stand up for the local NHS.  As your local MP, Martin campaigned tirelessly for free, local health services.

Martin is married to a doctor himself and four generations of his family have been cared for by Cheltenham GPs and hospital staff so he never forgets how valuable it is to have a good local health service free to all.

Martin has campaigned for many years to defend the emergency department at Cheltenham General Hospital and to see the full overnight A&E service restored in Cheltenham.  After ‘critical incidents’ were declared at Cheltenham and Gloucester, Martin asked the NHS regulators to investigate what went wrong in Gloucestershire and what role the new 111 service played, how well the various local health and social care providers are working together (for instance when they refer patients in to A&E and allow patients to be discharged) and whether local management decisions have made the situation worse by downgrading Cheltenham A&E at night and routing all unplanned admissions through A&E.

Under the coalition, Martin refused to vote for Conservative Secretary of State Andrew Lansley’s Health & Social Care Bill which he believed broke the coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats which promised no top-down reorganisation of the NHS. But he supported the coalition in raising overall spending on the NHS from £98bn in the last year of the Labour government to more than £110bn a year in 2015.  The Conservative government since 2015 has failed to match that rate of growth.

Far from bringing extra money into the NHS, Brexit will now put this progress at risk by damaging the economy and the so the resources available to the NHS, as well as driving away European staff and damaging recruitment.

Back in 2006, under the last Labour government, Martin was a leading member of the coalition of local campaigners that fought the 26 different cuts and closures that threatened the long-term future of Cheltenham General and many local services. Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters have a rose-tinted belief that Labour has always been a good friend of the NHS but that’s not how it felt then.

Martin led the campaign to save Cheltenham’s maternity ward

That campaign secured the future of Cheltenham’s St.Paul’s maternity ward which was earmarked for closure.  Martin will continue to campaign for the services that matter most to people, like maternity and A&E, to be kept local.

Other cuts like IVF services were also restored after pressure from Martin and others and as MP he took up many individual cases for local people who felt let down by local healthcare providers.  But he has always taken time to praise NHS staff and volunteers for their tremendous work and to give credit to local NHS management when they get things right.  Under the coalition, they managed to increase expenditure and deliver a small net surplus after achieving more than £17m in efficiency savings.

But as the chart from the independent King’s Fund below shows, in the few years since the Conservatives took power on their own, the majority of NHS trusts have plunged into deficit – and this now includes Gloucestershire too.  This is a direct threat to the future of local NHS services.NHS_into_the_red_under_Tories.png

Martin also campaigned consistently for good mental health services in Gloucestershire to make sure mental health service users get not only the services professionals think they should have but the services they want and need – just like those suffering from physical health problems.  He believes there is a particular crisis in child and adolescent mental health.  Before the coalition ended, he backed Lib Dem Deputy PM Nick Clegg’s announcement of £1.25 billion over five years for children’s mental health – but tragically this spending has not been maintained by the Conservatives since 2015.

At the 2015 General Election, only the Liberal Democrats pledged the full £8 billion extra which the NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said the NHS needed over the following five years and pledged equal status for mental health within the NHS, including children’s mental health and new mums who may need rapid access to treatment.

Lib Dems pledge cash for NHS as Gloucester A&E wait hits SIX HOURS

Outside Cheltenham A&E at the last election. Photo: Anna Lythgoe 07801819711

The Liberal Democrats have announced they would plug funding gaps for the NHS and social care by putting a penny on income tax, in their first major manifesto commitment of the election campaign.

The tax would raise an additional £65m for Gloucestershire, with £42m for the NHS, including mental health, and £23m for social care each year.

This is the party’s flagship spending commitment and its first major policy announcement for the election. The Liberal Democrats will also set out a ‘five-point recovery plan’ for NHS and social care services in their manifesto.

At least 70% of Brits would happily pay an extra 1p in every pound if that money was guaranteed to go to the NHS, an ITV poll found last October (link).

Former Liberal Democrat MP and now parliamentary candidate, Martin Horwood, said:

“This morning in Gloucester the waiting time to be seen by a doctor or nurse hit a staggering six hours while Cheltenham A&E was still turning away ambulances until half an hour ago because of the night-time downgrade.  This can’t go on.  It’s blindingly obvious we need two fully-functioning A&E departments in this county and that Gloucester Royal just can’t cope on its own at night.”

“This is a national problem as well as a local one.  Our NHS Trust isn’t the only one that has plunged into deficit in the last two years of Tory government.  And the Conservative candidate here voted for all the spending plans and Budgets that are making this happen.  He didn’t even mention Cheltenham A&E in Parliament for the best part of two years.

“The Liberal Democrats are prepared to be honest with people and say that to secure the future of the NHS we will all need to chip in a little more.
A penny in the pound here could be used be to pay hard-to-recruit rates and get the doctors we need into both A&Es, while the extra money for social care would ease pressure on the NHS too.  Only the Lib Dems seem to want to make this happen.

“This Conservative government has left our health and care services chronically underfunded – and while the crisis gets worse they just don’t seem to care.

“We cannot continue asking the system to deliver more and more without giving them the resources they need.”

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson and former health minister Norman Lamb said:

“The NHS was once the envy of the world and this pledge is the first step in restoring it to where it should be.

“A penny in the pound to save the NHS is money well spent in our view.

“But simply providing more money on its own is not enough and that’s why this is just the first step in our plan to protect health and care services in the long-term.”
NOTES

  • The Liberal Democrats manifesto will set out a ‘five-point recovery plan’ for NHS and social care services. This will include a 1% rise on the basic, higher, additional and dividend rates of income tax in the next financial year raising around £6bn per year, which will be ringfenced to be spent on NHS and care services and public health.
  • A regional breakdown of how the £6bn would be distributed, based on current funding allocations for both the NHS and social care, can be found here
  • Emergency departnment (A&E) waiting times at Gloucester Royal and Cheltenham General can be checked online here
  • Alex Chalk’s failure to mention Cheltenham A&E in parliament until 11 January 2017 can be checked on the independent website theyworkforyou.com.  He is no longer technically the MP following the dissolution of Parliament for the election.

Rate of EU staff leaving Glos NHS trust has doubled

68 EU nurses, doctors and other staff nurses quit Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in 2016

The Liberal Democrats have called for an “NHS Passport” to secure the rights of EU nationals working in the NHS, as figures have revealed a sharp rise in staff from the EU in Gloucestershire quitting the health service.

68 EU nurses, doctors and other staff left the NHS here in 2016, just over double the figure two years ago.  The number, obtained in a freedom of information request by the Liberal Democrat party, includes 26 nurses, 26 doctors and 16 other staff and covers the period leading up to and including the Brexit referendum.   The sharpest rise was between 2014 and 2015, the period covering the General Election campaign and the announcement of the EU referendum but 2016 saw the total number rise even higher.

Separate figures from the Royal College of Nursing have shown the number of EU nationals registering as nurses in England has dropped by 92%, while there are 24,000 nurse jobs unfilled in the NHS.

The Liberal Democrats have called for an immediate guaranteed right to live and work in the UK for all EU citizens working in NHS and care services, in a motion passed by members at the party’s Spring Conference this week.

Cheltenham’s Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Martin Horwood commented:

“These figures are really alarming and show the significant support that EU nationals provide for the NHS is at real risk.  It’s quite possible that the anti-European rhetoric of the General Election and Brexit referendum campaigns have played a big part in this sharp rise by making NHS workers from the rest of the EU feel so unwelcome.

“My own message to EU workers in the local NHS is ‘Please stay. Our health service needs you.’

“The Conservative Government’s heartless and divisive approach to Brexit risks driving away the hard-working nurses and doctors on which Cheltenham General and other local hospitals rely. And their reckless decision to abolish bursaries for student nurses has led to a huge fall in the number of people studying to become nurses.

“If I’d voted Leave on the basis that Brexit would help the NHS, I’d be feeling pretty cheated by Boris Johnson and the rest right now.

“Theresa May must do the decent thing and give the right for EU nationals in Gloucestershire to stay, with an immediate guarantee for those working in health and social care.”

NOTES

  • The Liberal Democrat party obtained these numnbers through a Freedom of Information request:
NHS TRUST TOTAL EU NATIONALS LEAVING EU NURSES LEAVING EU DOCTORS LEAVING EU OTHER STAFF LEAVING
2014 2015 2016 2014 2015 2016 2014 2015 2016 2014 2015 2016
Gloucestershire Hospitals 33 66 68 4 36 26 20 21 26 9 9 16

Autumn Statement means no extra cash for desperate local NHS

Today’s Autumn Statement by the Chancellor Philip Hammond includes no extra cash for local NHS trusts facing spiralling deficits and looming cuts to local services.

The Chancellor said in his speech: ‘The government, Mr Speaker, has pledged to invest in our NHS and we are delivering on that promise: backing the NHS’ Five Year Forward View plan for the future with £10 billion of additional funding a year by the end of 2020-21.’

But this ‘additional’ funding was a re-announcement of current plans and was first promised during the General Election campaign after the Liberal Democrats manifesto raised the issue of NHS finance.  The Government’s version of this funding has been condemned as misleading by the Commons Health select committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston who recently wrote to the government telling them that they were giving a “false impression that the NHS is awash with cash” and that they had “given the NHS what it asked for” when this was not true and that in fact local NHS trusts faced “overwhelming” financial pressures. 

Liberal Democrats in parliament had called for an urgent extra cash injection of £4 billion for health and social care this year, on top of already announced plans.

Meanwhile, according to a recent report by the independent health think tank, the King’s Fund, two-thirds of NHS trusts across the country are now in deficit and the trend for the NHS as a whole is going sharply downwards [see link to King’s Fund charts below]. Nothing in today’s statement changes this.

Cheltenham Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Martin Horwood said today: ‘Astonishingly the Chancellor barely mentioned the NHS and only then to repeat an earlier funding announcment which has already been exposed as misleading.  It is quite clear from independent analysis that there is a mounting financial crisis in the NHS and that two-thirds of local NHS trusts are now deficit – in contrast to the situation under the previous coalition government.  We now know this includes Gloucestershire with Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS hospital Trusts alone facing an estimated £24 million pound deficit this year.’

‘This poses a direct threat to valued local NHS services like A&E, mental health services and local maternity units’ he said.  ‘Without that extra cash injection local NHS chiefs will be forced into making damaging cuts.  I understand that Brexit has made the financial situation much tighter with lower projected growth next year and for years ahead.  But the government has found enough money to put off the fuel duty increase and spend welcome billions on infrastructure, so they should have realised that the NHS needed invetsment too.’

‘The time for our local MPs to speak out is now. Most of them have a record of complete loyalty to Theresa May’s Brexit government so far – Cheltenham’s new Conservative MP has voted as the party whips have told him in every single vote.  But this Autumn Statement poses a direct threat to valued local NHS services.  So now is his moment to break ranks and speak up for and vote for local NHS services.’

NOTES

  • Commons Health select committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston’s letter to the Chancellor accusing the government is giving a false impression of NHS finances can be found here.
  • Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb MP’s call for extra tax revenue for the NHS can be found here.
  • The independent King’s Fund report into NHS finances can be found here but key charts highlighting how the NHS is funded and its deteriorating financial situation are shown in the previous news release post.

Local pharmacies face cut in government spending

 

Millions are being cut from the government’s support for local community pharmacies and Cheltenham’s former LibDem MP has added his voice to those of pharmacists who are raising the alarm. The cuts are to the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework which pays local pharmacists to provide minor ailment services and public health advice, reducing pressure on GPs and the NHS.

The Department of Health (DH) plans to reduce funding by £170m from October 2016 as part of the government’s comprehensive spending review.

National pharmacists’ representative Sue Sharpe has said the cuts “will deliver a destructive blow to the support community pharmacies can offer to patients and the public.”

Former Cheltenham LibDem MP Martin Horwood says the cut could have a real impact in the town. “Local pharmacies like Badhams have hugely increased the range of services and advice they provide to local people. They don’t just dispense pills these days. They can take your blood pressure, give you lifestyle advice and review medication. The clear direction in Gloucestershire and nationally in recent years has been to support community pharmacy and take pressure off GPs and the local NHS.  Now the new Tory government is putting that policy into reverse.”

The cuts are all part of Chancellor George Osborne’s plan to cut faster and deeper than the coalition government.  Lib Dem ministers distanced themselves publicly from Conservative spending plans before the 2015 election.

Leading local pharmacist Peter Badham says “The future of community pharmacy is at a crossroads.  Patients are receiving mixed messages: pharmacy first, use your local pharmacy for minor ailments, flu vaccinations, advice on medication and so on.  And then that up to 3,000 chemists will close!”

“It is clear the cuts are going to implemented, with no negotiation or consideration of impact on patients'” he added.

NOTES


The campaign for Cheltenham A&E

Martin led the campaign to  maintain a full 24 hour A&E at Cheltenham General – one of his many campaigns for local health services – and repeatedly won assurances from Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust that Cheltenham A&E would not close.  Martin believes Cheltenham A&E has been under threat since acute services began to be centralised in Gloucester in 2006 and will keep campaigning against the drip-drip downgrade at Cheltenham.  He was the only local MP and the only Cheltenham politician to present evidence against the decision to downgrade Cheltenham A&E at night in 2013 when the decision was actually taken.  Current MP Alex Chalk – then the Conservative candidate – and Cotswolds MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown both missed the meeting.  You can still sign Martin’s petition calling for a rethink of that decision here.

 

The background

Back in 2006 Martin led the campaign which successfully saved Cheltenham maternity ward and warned that centralisation of acute services like neonatal intensive care posed a long-term threat to a full-service A&E at Cheltenham.  Martin has always believed that a town of nearly 120,000 people needs key services like maternity and A&E in its own district general hospital and was concerned at the drip-drip-drip shift in services to Gloucester.  In 2011 children’s emergency assessments shifted to Gloucester and in 2012 Gloucester was chosen as the county’s centre for major trauma care (such as serious motorway accidents) but still we were told A&E was safe.

Then in 2013, in the middle of an an NHS reorganisation, Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust suddenly asked for Cheltenham A&E to be downgraded at night with ambulance admissions going to Gloucester.

The trust claimed this was because they hadn’t been able to recruit the 20 consultants needed to fully staff two full A&E departments in Cheltenham and Gloucester and it would be safer to downgrade Cheltenham.  In fact, it’s now clear that they had never really tried recruit 20 consultants and were told by local medical training chiefs that their supervision of junior doctors was inadequate. Comparisons with neighbouring NHS trusts showed they had all managed to recruit a nearly full complement of consultants.

Challenging the decision to downgrade

In July 2013, Gloucestershire NHS clinical commissioning group (CCG) considered the plan to downgrade Cheltenham A&E at night.  Martin was the only local MP present and the only one to submit evidence based on academic medical and social research that the downgrade would be socially divisive and dangerous for higher risk groups in Cheltenham including:

  • those with particularly urgent conditions such as asthma, perforated ulcers and acute peritonitis
  • elderly people at risk of falls in Charlton Kings
  • children at higher risk of emergency admissions from neighbourhoods including Hester’s Way, Springbank, Whaddon and St.Peter’s.

You can request a copy of Martin’s submission and the minutes of the CCG meeting by emailing martin@martinhorwood.net.  No Conservative MP or candidate such as Costwolds MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown or new Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk (then the Conservative candidate) even bothered to turn up to the meeting or submit evidence to it. The only parliamentary candidate supporting Martin was Costwolds LibDem Cllr Paul Hodgkinson.

One committee of councillors could have influenced the decision and Cheltenham LibDem councillors Klara Sudbury and Iain Dobie asked the Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee to vote for it to be made temporary at least.  The only Cheltenham Conservative councillor present helped to defeat their motion, voting for the downgrade to be permanent instead.

In 2016, it was revealed that Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust was facing a serious financial deficit.  Liberal Democrats in Cheltenham and in Parliament backed a substantial boost to NHS funds from a 1p increase in income tax but all local Conservative MPs backed the Chancellor’s spending plans which continue to starve the NHS of the funds it needs to restore services like Cheltenham’s A&E to full health.