Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sign our hospital petition

We are still collecting signatures on our petition to support local hospitals, especially the West Cumberland Hospital, Millom Community Hospital, and Mary Hewetson Cottage Hospital in Keswick.

The petition emphasises the need to keep and improve existing services but opposes C.A.T.S. as currently proposed and in any form which might jeopardise existing services.

If you would like to sign our petition, email me at

Saturday, April 14, 2007

On a lighter note ...

On the doorstep this evening in Bransty while, among other things, collecting signatures on our petition to support local hospitals and against the C.A.T.S. (Clinical Assessment, Treatment and Support) proposals as they currently stand.

Having just persuaded one resident to sign the petition, I asked if his wife and daughters (one of whom is a student nurse at the West Cumberland and therefore directly affected) might also like to sign. He was sure they would and the following dialogue took place

DAD - "Come and sign this to say you're against C.A.T.S."

NURSE - "What's wrong with cats?"

CANVASSER "Not the sort with four legs and a tail - the sort that's putting your job in danger!"

NURSE (laughing and reaching for pen) "Oh that kind of C.A.T.S."

(She signed, as has nearly everyone else we have spoken to, regardless of politics. Who says campaigning is boring?)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Is the government about to axe the careers of 8,000 junior doctors ?

Mark Fulford has an very worrying article on "Conservative Home" (see link at left) about planned changes in Junior Doctors' training which is worth quoting in full.

"Patricia Hewitt, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are about to trash the careers of 8,000 “junior” doctors in specialist training. These are doctors who have spent 5 years on a medical degree and then a further 3 to 5 years on post-graduate training. In a reorganisation of training, known as
“Modernising Medical Careers”, 8,000 doctors (who are still required by the NHS) are being prevented from practicing medicine in the UK.

It is a scandalous disregard of people and waste of 72,000 man-years and £2 billion of training costs. It’s also a scandal that that the royal colleges, media and opposition politicians have all been so limp-wristed, letting the government get away with it.

I believe that the reason behind the ineffective response is that very few understand exactly how bad this is for the affected doctors. We find it hard to believe that these doctors (who, after all, are the doctors you see in A&E, emergency surgery, resuscitation, etc) really will be out of a career. Unfortunately, unlike most careers, that is exactly what is happening. Although they are the backbone of the NHS, junior doctors are still in training and can not practice outside a training post. If they don’t have a training post within the NHS then they can not practice medicine in the UK, and can only wait until next year to re-apply. If they do re-apply next year (presumably having stacked shelves in the meantime) then they are a year out-of-practice, making it unlikely that they’ll get a post in a highly competitive applications process. Their careers are effectively over.

So while we lay people didn’t understand how bad it was, the government hoodwinked the BMA and, unsurprisingly, the BBC.

In a recent article the BBC reports government apologies and tinkering to the interview process with the headline Doctors training crisis ‘averted’, as if the battle was won. They quote Dr Tom Dolphin, of the BMA's Junior Doctors Committee as saying the system is “far from perfect…” but “…better than it was".

As Nick Robinson would say: Really?

Last week, Dr Jo Hilborne, chairman of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, said: “Not only has the government failed to design a fair recruitment process, they’ve also misled everyone on the number of jobs available. Even if the application system improves, thousands of doctors are going to find themselves without a training post in August.”

And Dr Tom Dolphin (the one who the BBC quoted as saying “better than it was”) said: “It’s a terrible waste of talent and public money but the government’s failure to plan the NHS workforce means that thousands of UK doctors aren’t going to get opportunities to train to become GPs and consultants.”

Our politicians and media need to hold the government to account on this. Please stop the endless coverage of captured marines that is putting too many serious issues in the shade.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hospital petition extended

In January I and colleagues started colecting signatures on a petition to support Cumbrian hospitals and against the imposition of CATS on the national model.

CATS stands for "Clinical Assessment, Treatment and Support." It is designed to provide extra capacity for diagnosis and treatment by involving the private sector, but there are concerns that it might have an adverse effect on existing hospital services.

In the words of the Cumbria County Council's Overview and Scrutiny report "There is therefore a real threat of destabilising local services."

The North Cumbria Acute trust response to the consultation went even further and stated that implementaion of CATS as outlined in the consultation document would present an "immediate threat to the viability of some emergency services currently provided by the Trust."

Since the "Great debate" on local hospital services which the local Primary Care Trust (PCT) began earlier this year has been extended, local Conservatives have extended the petition on which we are collecting signatures.

It reads as follows:

"We the undersigned ·

Insist that District General Hospital services, including maternity, Accident and Emergency, Orthopaedics, and Paediatrics, must continue to be provided in Copeland·

Note that the great majority of local clinicians and NHS managers believe that the government’s CATS contract, if imposed in its original form, could result in service closures in West Cumbria·

Call on the Department of Health, Strategic Health Authority, and PCT not to impose the CATS model on Cumbria either in its original form or any other variant which is likely to reduce either Acute or Community hospital provision in West Cumbria or elsewhere in the county."

Anyone who would like to sign this petition can contact me by leaving a comment here. There is also a petition supporting West Cumbria's hospitals and against CATS on the Downing Street website.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Patricia Hewitt speaks on Maternity in West Cumbria

The Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, has urged the local health trusts to think very carefully about any proposals to amend maternity services for West Cumbria.

Her comments have been interpreted as a signal that closing or cutting maternity at West Cumberland Hospital would be a bad idea.

In itself, these words are welcome. But it is actions rather than words from the government will are needed to safeguard our hospital services