Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Unhealthy Options

More evidence of the way local authorities are responding to the challenges of Austerity Britain - fat cat salaries and pensions for those at the top, while more lowly staff face pay freezes and job cuts. (Private Eye)

Matters aren't much different in Jersey, where the economies at the hospital mean taking on more management consultants to oversee the cuts - Yes Minister territory here in a big way - and cutting back on a few of the sewing staff. There may also be more "user pays charges".

Of course this is not entirely unexpected. In a former life, when in charge of health care development at South Essex , Julie Garbut, the proponent of this strategy, was associated with a closure that called forth the comment that "the options concern a reduction in services rather than in bureaucracy".

The whole exchange is given in Hansard, and it makes fascinating, if somewhat depressing reading. Remember the episode of Yes Minister where there is an entire hospital staffed with bureaucrats, but missing patients, and read her comments on where she placed the importance of hospital beds:

Running through the closure of Ongar and the minor injuries unit, and the problems at High Wood, is the impression that minds are already made up; that, despite fairly expensive consultation and full-page advertisements in a local newspaper, people are just going through the motions. Meetings on closures are held in rooms that are deliberately small, so that people who are concerned cannot get in. We have a meeting tomorrow in Brentwood to consider the minor injuries unit and High Wood hospital. The meeting was arranged for the last weekend before Christmas, with the feeling that the public would not turn up. I think that we shall be surprised tomorrow night.

Brentwood, which is bearing the bulk of the proposed closures--two of the units are within my constituency--feels strongly that if better use were made of the minor injuries unit, it would relieve an enormous amount of pressure on the national health service and reduce waiting time. The suggested savings of £132,000 seem small in comparison to the overall budget. Indeed, all the closures do not amount to very much. I have to agree with Councillor David Gottesmann--a Liberal Democrat--the leader of Brentwood council, that

"the options concern a reduction in services rather than in bureaucracy."

At High Wood hospital, the proposals include the closure of Magnolia ward, Laurels ward and Brambles day centre, with 50 in-patient beds. It is not surprising that Mrs. Queenie Bishop, the chairman of Brentwood Age Concern, says:

"residents are shocked and unhappy at the news."

The consultation document says that the aim is to "achieve the closure of the High Wood site."

Since the outcry, South Essex health authority has backpedalled on that. Julie Garbutt, the director of health care development for South Essex health authority, told a recent meeting of the community health council that the original document listing the options for saving money was "not accurate" when it stated that the aim was to achieve the closure of the High Wood site. She went on to say:

"We are not talking about the whole closure, we are talking about beds".

That is an interesting idea on how to create a more efficient hospital: do not close the hospital, just get rid of the beds. It saves on linen and also waiting times. I cannot help but feel that views on a hospital without beds are the same. The Ongar War Memorial hospital campaign group has a saying: "No beds equals no hospital."


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh God. In Garbutt have we imported yet another corporate clone who has great faith that the process of management, and in particular those who administer it, are of far more value to society than the doers and thinkers that they control?

Garbutt the Golgafrinchan. Let's hope she doesn't make the telephone sanitisers redundant. We wouldn't want her and her ilk to be wiped out by a plague caught from a dirty phone would we???