Buck-passing on Secretary of State’s requirement to engage and consult public on Grantham A&E overnight closure must stop

Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire campaigners are telling Lincolnshire Health Scrutiny Committee to make sure local NHS organisations produce their report – requested by the Minister of Health last September – on how they plan to carry out the long-overdue public engagement and consultation on the overnight closure of Grantham A&E.

The campaigners have serious questions and comments about the Scrutiny Officer’s report on the lack of progress in relation to the Health Scrutiny Committee’s two referrals (in December 2016 and January 2018) of Grantham A&E overnight closure to Secretary of State.

They think that all the evidence indicates that the Department of Health, Lincolnshire County Council and the local NHS organisations have colluded in kicking these referrals into the long grass. All the better to make sure they are not acted on.

Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire demands:

  • Lincolnshire Health Scrutiny Committee should urgently demand that South West Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group and United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust send them the report.
  • Scrutiny of the Report’s proposals for carrying out the public engagement and consultation, envisaged in the March 2017 report of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, should be put on the agenda for the next Lincs Health Scrutiny Committee meeting
  • Lincolnshire Health Scrutiny Committtee should protest in the strongest possible terms to the Secretary of State about the Department of Health’s failure to pass their 2018 referral to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel and demand that the Department of Health does this at once.
  • Lincolnshire Health Scrutiny Committtee should promptly meet with Lincolnshire MPs to ask them to act on these matters and ask questions of the Sec of State in the HoC. They should invite officers from Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire to the meeting with MPs.

Update: Here is the 29th Jan response from the Health Scrutiny Committee Chair, Cllr Carl Macey ((downloadable pdf).)

Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire member Frank Slater has emailed the Health Scrutiny Committee Chair Cllr Macey, questioning the effectiveness of scrutiny both at local and national levels.

The Health Scrutiny Committee is to discuss the Scrutiny Officer’s report at its meeting on 23rd January, in Committee Room One, County Offices, Newland, Lincoln LN1 1YL

South West Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group and United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust have failed to provide the Health Scrutiny Committee with a copy of their report, that they were due to send the Minister of State for Health by 31 December 2018.

The Report – conspicuous by its absence – is the long-delayed response to the March 2017 Independent Reconfiguration Panel report. This assessed the Health Scrutiny Committee’s December 2016 referral to the Secretary of State of the “temporary” closure of Grantham A&E.

The Independent Reconfiguration Panel sent their report to the Secretary of State in March 2017, but he apparently lost it down the back of his sofa. In July 2017, Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire asked the Health Scrutiny Committee Chair about it – to no avail. Cllr Carl Macey replied to Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire:

“Everyone involved is frustrated, unfortunately we are in the hands of Jeremy Hunt.”

The Independent Reconfiguration Panel eventually published its assessment in August 2017. It concluded that:


“…further local action by the NHS with the Council can address the issues raised.”

It specified how the local NHS organisations and Lincolnshire County Council should do this:

“CCGs, as commissioners of [emergency care] services, must as a matter of urgency work with the local providers (including mental health care and community providers as well as ULHT) and the HSC to engage and consult the public across Lincolnshire on current services and what might be achievable and sustainable in the future. Drawing on the work already done for the sustainability and transformation plan for the area, a plan of action for the whole health economy is required that will implement safe and sustainable urgent and emergency services and bring about an early end to the current uncertainty.

So why on earth haven’t the local NHS organisations and Health Scrutiny Committee done this?

The Scrutiny Officer’s report says that if South West Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group and United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust do produce their missing public engagement and consultation plan:

“…it will be circulated if it becomes available prior to the Committee’s meeting date. If the report is received from the Minister of State, this item will enable the Committee to consider the latest position.
Actions Required: To note the current position with regard to the Health Scrutiny Committee for Lincolnshire’s referral of the Grantham and District Hospital’s overnight closure of Accident and Emergency Department to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.”

Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire campaigners say this is a feeble conclusion.

Scrutiny Officer’s report omits key information

Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire would like the Health Scrutiny Committee to respond to the following questions and comments.

Why does the Scrutiny Officer’s Report omit the vital information that, as of September 2018, the Department of Health had not passed the Health Scrutiny Committee’s January 2018 referral to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel?

And why doesn’t it say that the Department of Health’s responses to questions from both Cllr Carl Macey and from members of the public failed to provide this information – or to say what they were doing, if anything, about the January 2018 referral?

It was left to campaigners to ask the Independent Reconfiguration Panel about their lack of action. The Independent Reconfiguration Panel secretary replied that the Department of Health hadn’t sent them the Health and Scrutiny Committee’s January 2018 referral and they knew nothing about it.

Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire can only conclude that between them, both Lincolnshire Health Scrutiny Committee and the Department of Health seem unable to do their jobs. This has put the future of Grantham A&E at risk.

Why does the Scrutiny Officer’s report fail to mention that it was pressure from Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire that led to the very belated intervention by the Minister of State for Health in September 2018, when he told the local NHS organisations to come up with their long-delayed plan for engaging and consult the public across Lincolnshire on current emergency services and a plan of action for the whole health economy that would implement safe and sustainable urgent and emergency services and bring about an early end to the current uncertainty (!!).

Alarmed by the Department of Health’s lack of response to the Health Scrutiny Committee’s January 2018 referral, late last summer campaigners asked Cllr Carl Macey what was going on. A complicated dialogue ensued between campaigners, Cllr Carl Macey, the Dept of Health and Minister of State – including an open letter to the Minister of State from Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire, signed by 241 people.

The open letter to the Minister of State asked him to clarify the baffling circumstances surrounding the Department of Health’s failure to tell the Independent Reconfiguration Panel that in January 2018 Lincolnshire Health Scrutiny Committee had referred the permanent nighttime closure of Grantham A&E to the Secretary of State.

Minister of State’s reply was evasive and inadequate:

Evasive response from Steven Barclay’s letter writer that didn’t answer any questions

In September 2018Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire took part in a meeting of MPs and campaign groups at the House of Commons, to review failures in the Health Scrutiny and referrals process across the country. The meeting agreed an action plan to urgently remedy these failings. MPs advised campaigners to be a nuisance to MPs representing health, to address problems that affect the whole system – not just individual areas/ Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships, and to plug away at local MPs.

Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire is acting on this advice.

 

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One comment

  1. The whole scenario beggars belief, no wonder we have no faith in the scrutiny system which is supposed to be there to protect us, we the residents

    Like

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