What can or should Hebden Royd Town Council do about changes to GP and community health services?

This is a very late report on Hebden Royd Town Council meeting on June 12 2019.

It’s been a bit of a mad year. I’m trying to catch up before the New Year, so anyone who is interested can access a proper record of what Calderdale and Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS have tried to do in 2019, to protect the NHS from cuts, privatisation and the ongoing imposition of USA-style accountable care – aka “managed” care.

This restricts patients’ access to treatments and places cost cutting and business decisions ahead of patients’ clinical needs – and clinical staff’s needs for safe, effective working.

At the previous HR Town Council meeting, in May, I had appealed for the Town Council’s help in restoring Hebden Bridge GP Practice to its former good standards, in the face of many problems experienced by patients.

In response to my statement, the Town Council had asked for information on:

  • the new Primary Care Network contract – effectively the end of the family doctor model of GP Practice
  • revised plans for Halifax and Huddersfield NHS hospitals’ cuts and centralisation of acute/emergency and planned care services, and the related shift of services out of the hospitals, into so-called “care closer to home”.

I sent this in.

Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group ignored the Town Council’s request to discuss “care closer to home” at NHS stakeholder event

I attended the 12 June Town Council meeting, with the aim of commenting on the agenda item: correspondence NHS/Town Council re hospital and community health services in Calderdale.

This concerned a letter Hebden Royd Town Council had sent to Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group, asking them to make sure that a number of issues relating to shifting hospital services into the “community” were on the agenda for the June 11th Stakeholder Engagement Event.

Town Councillors had been invited to this event, to discuss revised plans for hospital and community/primary health services in Calderdale and Kirklees.

But this event did NOT address these issues, despite the Town Council letter – and the fact that at the start of the event, I asked for them to be discussed.

What can or should the Town Council do about the way GP and community health services are being re-organised?

At the 12th June Town Council meeting, Cllr Carol Stowe, the HR Mayor, invited me to explain what I thought Hebden Royd Town Council could or should do about the way GP and community health services are being reorganised.

I said that the new Primary Care Network Boards each now have 2 Calderdale Councillor members. Calderdale Council’s role in the NHS is increasing, as integration of the NHS and Council social care and public health services proceeds.

Calderdale Sustainability and Transformation Plan (which Primary Care Networks and Calderdale Care Closer to Home are key parts of), is part of Calderdale Council’s Local Plan.

Hebden Royd Town Council has a legitimate role in commenting on/shaping the Calderdale Local Plan. It was still not finalised, so there was still time for Hebden Royd Town Council to comment.

Councillors’ discussion

One Councillor said there are two aspects – political and practical. There are lots of complaints about Hebden Royd Group Practice. He suggested tackling that by writing Freedom Of Information questions to the Practice Manager and asking them to an open event for the Practice to discuss the issues. Or the Town Council could possibly make a formal complaint to Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group.

Cllr Dave Young said the problems with the NHS were to do with under-funding and nothing to do with Hebden Royd Town Council. He said I should go to Calderdale Council as he didn’t think it comes under HR Town Council’s remit.

Another Cllr whose name I didn’t catch said he would be interested in seeing evidence of complaints. He agreed with the first Councillor, that the Town Council should ask the GP Practice for this. He said the Town Council should be clear about what outcome they want, they need to be specific.

Cllr Wood asked if there was any linkage between the HB Group Practice functioning and access to services through the Primary Care Network contract. He said he would have expected major discussions in media and an Act of Parliament etc. He added,

“It may not be anything to do with Hebden Royd Town Council – but it is something to do with every single one of us, as NHS patients and custodians of public service.”

He added that they needed to know more – there is the potential to have a conversation with Hebden Bridge Group Practice so they can explain the impact of the Primary Care Network contract.

Cllr Sarah Courtney said that HR Town Council might not technically have a role, but as representatives of local people it’s reasonable for the Town Council to have an interest in this. She asked if they respond to consultation (I think referring to consultation on the Local Plan) as the Town Council or as individuals. In planning terms, do they want to be involved in the consultation? It’s reasonable to be involved, but in what capacity?

Another Cllr whose name I didn’t catch – although it may have been Cllr Needham -said that Councillors facilitate discussion about other public services than those they have statutory responsibilities for. Perhaps they can help facilitate public discussions locally, with the Calderdale Councillors, to enable people to have a voice.

Cllr Harvey said she was deeply suspicious of these changes. She works in the NHS and sees it first hand. She asked what they can do about it as the Parish Council. What does the Practice Manager think about it? Are they supportive of this? If so, why? She is interested int their views.

Another Cllr said that in terms of their local responsibilities, this is a very important issue for their local people. All levels of local government have responsibility for people in the local area. So Hebden Royd Town Council could be another voice closest to people in the local area. They could move towards doing some response, there is a very good reason for supporting this.

Cllr Guilfoyle said regarding the Mytholmroyd Walk In clinic, the Practice was having trouble recruiting up to 5 GPs, Maybe the Practice Manager could give an update.

Cllr Courtney asked me directly if it would be helpful for Hebden Royd Town Council to host a public meeting on the issue.

I said yes.

All Councillors expressed concerns about the NHS at local and national levels

The Mayor, Cllr Carol Stowe, summed up. She said all Cllrs were expressing concerns about the NHS at national and local levels. It was probably up to them to voice the concerns of local people. They would try to coordinate things at a local level and facilitate a public meeting, as they have rooms available.

She concluded that the way forward was to agree that they need to be facilitating a fairly rapid discussion in the Town Hall, called in Hebden Royd Town Council’s name, inviting local residents to air concerns but making it clear the Council doesn’t have any formal powers. But they will decide who to write to.

Cllr Young made a suggestion about someone it would be a good idea to invite but I didn’t catch who he mentioned.

Minutes omit Councillors’ decision to facilitate a public meeting in the Town Hall

Unaccountably, the official Minutes of the 12th June meeting omitted any mention of the decision that the Town Council needed to rapidly call a public meeting in the Town Hall for local residents to air concerns.

Instead this is the Minuted version of the Mayor’s summary:

“Cllr Stow summed up the discussions in that the concerns relate to local and national changes in the NHSD and as the tier closest to the people we have a right to represent views. That the Town Council facilitates and coordinates discussion and to bring together ideas and communicate with the local practice. That the practise manager be contacted who should be asked for a briefing initially.”

The summer passed.

Finally the Practice Manager agreed to attend the September Town Council Meeting. In the event he was unable to attend and instead Dr Nigel Taylor took his place. Here is a report of the meeting.

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