Labour Party delegates to Cornwall’s Local Campaign Forum (LCF) have adopted a tough new policy on cuts to the health service, putting pressure on Cornwall Council to stand up for the NHS.
A motion proposed by the North Cornwall CLP, in response to the recent downgrading of Bude’s Minor Injury Unit, successfully united anti-cuts campaigns in Saltash, Fowey, Bodmin and St Ives. The new LCF policy, sometimes known as Cornwall Labour Party, will now set the tone for debate within the council chamber. Known as “Section 30 referrals” the council has the ability to lay the blame for the cuts squarely on the shoulders of the Secretary of State for Health.
The essential difference with previous criticisms of NHS cuts is that the council will now be asked to exercise its role as a statutory consultee, and force the Secretary of State to intervene with a formal public consultation. For more than three years, the Liberal Democrat-led council has been content to watch from the sidelines – while one community health facility after another has been closed. All of the closures are theoretically “temporary” – but the new Labour policy now identifies them clearly as permanent “stealth” cuts, with an implication that Cornwall’s health bosses have been less than honest about their long-term intentions.
Genuinely “temporary” closures seldom last more than a few months. In Cornwall the “temporary” closures have lasted 2- 3 years. Labour’s policy is now quite distinct from that of County Hall’s Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. Although victory in the council chamber is improbable, without a much larger Labour group, the Lib Dems and Tories will at least in future have to explain their failure to exercise their statutory “watchdog” role.
Although Labour councillors are not bound by the new policy – party rules allow Labour groups to decide their own policies – the four Labour members of Cornwall Council now have clarity about what rank-and-file party members are campaigning for.
The new policy says: This Labour Party notes with dismay that the Bude/Stratton Minor Injuries Unit remains closed overnight, despite promises from the Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust that the sudden closure, in early December, was caused by local staffing difficulties and was only temporary.
- This Labour Party also notes that the change to ICPs and ACOs originates from an NHS England policy document entitled “Five Year Forward View” written by Simon Stevens, which has received no Manifesto mandate through any election process; has not been passed through the democratic scrutiny of the Houses of Commons or Lords; has not been proposed as a Green or White Paper with the research, impact and risk assessment requirements inherent in those legislative processes and therefore has no democratic legitimacy nor mandate with the British public whom the NHS is created to serve. This is being accepted as national policy through the Department of Health, while having no research evidence to support it.
Cornwall Labour Party therefore:
- Urges all Cornwall councillors to stand up for the National Health Service, to properly exercise their “watchdog” role as a statutory consultee and to immediately refer this change of service to the Secretary of State, under Section 30 of The Local Authority (Public Health, Health and Wellbeing Boards and Health Scrutiny) Regulations 2013;
- Notes that similar Minor Injury Units at Saltash, and Fowey, were closed as a “temporary measure” more than two years ago, and that they are still closed today; that the Bodmin Treatment Centre was closed in April 2017 as a temporary measure, and remains closed today; and that the Edward Hain community hospital was closed more than three years ago, as a temporary measure, with the loss of 12 local beds, and that those beds remain closed today; we also urge similar immediate referrals in respect of these community health facilities;
- Calls on all councillors to reject the proposed new structure for providing health services in Cornwall, as currently envisaged by the Shaping Our Future Transformation Board, noting that it seeks to replace the National Health Service with an Integrated Care Partnership (formerly known as an Accountable Care Organisation/System); on the grounds that:
- it is establishing its own “self-regulating system” outside of national scrutiny and quality monitoring (https://doclibrary-rcht.cornwall.nhs.uk/DocumentsLibrary/ShapingOurFuture/TransformationBoardMeetings/Minutes/1819/201808/Item05MovingTowardsASelfRegulatingSystem.pdf
- The contractual legality of the proposed new system has yet to be tested in the Supreme Court;
- The “Whole Population Annual Contract” funding model causes grave concern in a peripheral, rural, aged population like Cornwall because of the incentive to cut costs and outsource care in pursuit of scale;
- The carve-up of Cornwall into three Integrated Care Area Boards elevates “devolution” to a quasi-religious belief-system, at the expense of patients’ health. There is no mandate for the removal of National Health provision within national standards.
- The Shaping Our Future strategic estates plan exists primarily to sell public assets, specifically Saltash, Fowey and Edward Hain hospitals, in line with the government-commissioned Naylor Report.
- Encourages the desirability of closer integration between health and social care, but believes that this is best achieved by the abolition of the 2012 Health & Social Care Act, which opened the floodgates to unrestricted fragmentation and privatisation in a world of purchasers and providers, and calls for a return to a national Department of Health and Social Security. We respectfully draw to the attention of Labour councillors, in particular, that the sentiments outlined above are Labour Party policy as outlined by the Shadow Secretary of State, Jonathan Ashworth MP, in his speech to the Labour Party conference in September 2018 (https://labour.org.uk/press/jonathan-ashworth-speaking-labour-party-conference-today/); noting further that Mr Ashworth’s speech built on the Labour Party conference resolution of 2017, as proposed by the Socialist Health Association and carried unanimously (https://www.sochealth.co.uk/2017/09/25/labour-party-conference-nhs-composite-motion/)
The proposal was carried overwhelmingly at a meeting of around 35 delegates, at County Hall on Saturday (23rd February)
The new policy also has the potential to embarrass councillors from other political parties, who will be challenged to defend their own local health facilities in Bude, Saltash, Fowey, Bodmin and St Ives.