Congratulations to the Courier for publishing the N.U.T,s legitimate grievances against Michael Groves attack on state education and the teaching profession. Everyone in the country has the right to strike except the police and armed forces who have a no strike clause in their terms and conditions of employment. Only a couple of weeks ago barristers and lawyers protested about the governments attack on their profession and cuts in legal aid by withdrawing their labour at major Crown Courts. This week ambulance staff will be on strike against changes to shift patterns. It is no coincidence that the teachers strike is happening at the same time as the protest against the closure of A&E and bed cuts. Both are part of the governments attack on public services with the intention of privatising the NHS and underming state education in the interest of private companies profit. Could I suggest to your Vox Pop correspondents, who appear to have little idea about what goes on in schools,to carefully read the NUT’s case to protect state education or talk to teachers whose profession is being seriously undermined to the detriment of our children. Could I further suggest to those who oppose the teachers strike to read the Guardian article on 15 March about why teachers are quitting in droves.
Questions that need answers
Would the Courier, on behalf of the people of Calderdale demand that the points raised in this letter and other forums be addressed by the relevant groups and committees. Calderdale Royal,this flagship of PFI was designed with a, presumably state of the art, A&E unit, It now appears to have been downgraded and faces possible closure. If it were to close all emergency patients would be taken to HRI, this migration of ambulances would increase their time spent on that site, increasing the chance they are despatched from there down the Calder Valley. The CCG have quoted the 5 mile journey between hospitals as taking 15 minutes, this is 20mph. This means a range of 10 miles each way, Mytholmroyd for example, this with no time to attend to the patient consumes the vital first hour. Every 3 minutes attending to casualties reduces the range of the round trip by 1 mile. If the outbound leg is from Huddersfield it means a victim,not yet a patient, is without treatment for the additional 15 minutes, during the most critical period of their need. Is there a legal requirement to have paramedics in place within a maximum time? Eight minutes have been mentioned. At a time when the NHS is running an advert , FAST, telling us the quicker they can treat a stroke victim the more of the person they can save why is the CCG proposing a policy causing delay? The addition to journey times also means that for each call out the ambulance is occupied for a further half hour, as an example, four times in an eight hour shift would reduces availability by two hours, or 25%. The CCG will have accurate figures for this, can they indicate other than delays. Dr Brook asks “would you want to spend your resources on two A&Es if the performance is not as good as one sole unit”? Would he expand on this because most people would want two units working properly. A major factor with closing a unit would be the effect on capacity; if it were reduced it would increase occupancy of the facilities; many patients have serious but not life threatening conditions needing urgent treatment. If all staff and equipment are tied up with these what happens when a life threatening case arrives? The NCAT report that cites staff shortages are the reason for the single A&E option, if this is the case, closing a unit may be a short term fix but does not address the long term problem why is there a chronic shortage of staff? If front line services are not being cut,and Dr Brook says it’s not about cuts, wouldn’t the best option be two fully functioning A&Es.
Change does not always improve
It is with dismay I read the continuing debates in the Courier on whether Halifax should lose its A&E service to Huddersfield, and more recently the plans to have Calderdale’s Royal Infirmary as a hospital site for ‘planned’ care only. Having worked for the NHS for over 30 years, I have seen my fair share of change governments have made to this great institution and unfortunately not all have been good, nor does there seem to be the ability to learnt from previous mistakes. The cynic in me believes decisions have already been made, and despite best efforts to protest against the proposed changes, the powers that be will have made up their mind ‘for the good of our local population’.
Having worked my way through the nursing ranks, I now have what may be classed as an ‘ivory tower’ position, my role to review and drive improvements across specific areas of NHS acute care in hospitals. I was trained and undertook a large part of my career in the raft of hospitals that used to serve Burnley and the surrounding area, and had first hand experience of exactly what Calderdale is going through now. With transformation of services taking place in 2007 Blackburn is now the site for unplanned care and Burnley that for planned care. Not only do I witness and hear of the daily struggle of staff to cope with demand at the Blackburn site, but Burnley General Hospital continues on it’s spiralling decline into obscurity. Did the transformation of services make for better services and outcomes? I suspect if you read their local papers, ask Lancashire residents and delve into hospital statistics it has not. Don’t over look the wider impact on the community either, changing where the NHS workforce does the bulk of its work undoubtedly affects where people live, work opportunities and what investment retail and industry services want to make in the area. You only need to visit Burnley to see how it has declined over recent years. I therefore find myself in a dilemma, I know we have to make the best of NHS resources and improvements inevitably require change, it’s the very foundations on which I do my job; yet as a member of the public and a Calder Valley resident too, do I really want to be faced with the prospect of having either Huddersfield or Blackburn as my nearest unplanned care services? I know all the hype about the ‘expertise’ being brought together, creating ‘centres of excellence’ so we get the best care and outcomes. If someone can prove to me this is the case then perhaps I’ll wave the flag for the proposed changes and welcome them with open arms, however can I just say to CCGs and other powers that be, ‘changes are not always improvements’!