The Community of Coquetdale in Northumbria has just been subjected to the most disgraceful exclusion from democracy.
Following the Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s review of the plan to close beds at Rothbury Cottage Hospital, on 12th November Matt Hancock wrote to Northumberland County Council Health Scrutiny Councillors, directing them to include and involve
‘local stakeholders (including Healthwatch) in the evaluation leading to Clinical Commissioning Group consideration of the case for whether or not to reopen these beds’.
It is the Campaign’s opinion that the Scrutiny Committee Chair, Cllr Jeffrey Watson, has subverted this democratic process outlined by Matt Hancock.
Cllr Watson (who personally voted against referring the hospital bed closures plan to the Secretary of State) has chosen to ignore correspondence from Katie Scott, Coordinator of Save Rothbury Community Hospital campaign and the many emails from Coquetdale residents, requesting that the Save Rothbury Community Hospital Team has a seat at the Review Group table.
On 8th December Katie Scott wrote to the Cllr Jeffry Watson and Scrutiny Committee members, that:
“We would respectfully suggest that the Review Group should be composed of:
• 3 members of your Committee who voted to refer the matter to the Secretary of State,
• 3 representatives of the Clinical Commissioning Group and Trust. (That was the number of people who met in August 2016 to hatch the plan to suspend the use of the beds – there was a member of the Joint Local Executive Board, a Clinical Commissioning Group officer, and an officer from the Trust).
• 3 representatives from the Campaign Team. (We can supply expert detailed medical, welfare, legal, care and travel advice).
• 1 representative of Healthwatch.
• Secretarial and minuting services should be supplied by the County Council”.
Nothing agreed or discussed at farcical County Hall meeting
In an absolutely farcical waste of time, a meeting was held at County Hall this morning, attended by Officers of Northumberland County Council, including Daljit Lally, to say what the composition of the Review Group is.
Cllr Watson has chosen to appoint two Scrutiny Committee members who voted against the referral, one who was not on the Committee when it was referred, and 2 who did vote to refer. He has also selected a representative of Healthwatch. But he has ignored requests that representatives from Save Rothbury Community Hospital be at the table.
Cllr Watson also talked about some questions for the Clinical Commissioning Group.
Save Rothbury Community Hospital campaigners do not know who wrote these questions, or when the Clinical Commissioning Group. has to respond to them.
At the end of the very short meeting – where nothing was agreed or discussed, and no one from the public was allowed to speak – there were calls of ‘Shame’ and ‘Disgraceful’ from the Coquetdale residents who came along to support the Campaign Team. One member of the audience shouted out,
‘We are here to request that the Save Rothbury Community Hospital Team represent us on this group’.
Cllr Watson refused to engage with anyone, listen to anyone, explain to anyone. He walked out to shouts of
‘What kind of democracy is this?’ And ‘Shame on you’.
The audience and the Team were left visibly shocked and stunned by the surprising and mystifying lack of communication and openness.
The Campaign Team are meeting to discuss their next steps. The Local Councillor, Steven Bridgett, is planning on suggesting that Rothbury Parish Council investigates the steps needed to initiate a judicial review on the whole process
On 10th September, Katie Scott attended a House of Commons meeting of NHS campaign groups across England, where she joined in lobbying MPs about the need to improve the health scrutiny and referrals process.