Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Feedback from Whitehaven Mental Health meeting

This week in Whitehaven the NHS Trusts in Cumbria held one of their "drop-in" sessions as part of the current consultation on Mental Health services in Cumbria.

In spite of the fact that the consultation was held at what Copeland council had warned the NHS was not a terribly convenient time - the middle of the afternoon on a working day - more than 50 people listened to the consultation and Question and Answer session for nearly two hours and there was a constant stream of questions right to the very end.

This consultation affects everyone in Cumbria, from Millom to Penrith, from Carlisle to Barrow. It may be very important for the future of many local residents who might prefer not to think about the issue.

Unfortunately care for those with mental problems is often seen as a "Cinderella service" and does not get enough attention, which can be a tragedy both for those who suffer from mental illness and those family members who care for them and who are often the worst affected victims.

The fact that so many people turned out even at such an inconvenient time should be a signal to the NHS Trusts that they need to redouble their efforts to involve more people. To be fair to them, the people representing the Trusts at the meeting did promise that they would try to do this, but it is important that the rest of us both hold them to their word and give them someone to engage with - proper consultation is a two-way street.

Copies of the consultation document can be obtained by ringing 08447 280107 on online at nhsconsultation@cumbriapct.nhs.uk

The current consultation will be open until 30th September.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Public presentation tomorrow on Mental Health

There will be a public display and presentation tomorrow in Whitehaven Civic Hall as part of the current Mental Health consultations.

Details are:

Monday, 21st July, Civic Hall, Whitehaven
Display boards available to read from: 2pm
Presentation & Q&A: 3pm

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New boss for North Cumbria's hospitals

Carole Heatly, currently Chief Exec at Kingston hospital trust in South London, has been appointed to succeed Marie Burnham as CEO of the North Cumbria Acute Hospitals Trust with effect from October.

As Mike Little has taken over from Eric Urquhart as Chairman of the Acute Trust, which runs both the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehavem and the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, and Marie Burnham had reshuffled the executive directors before announcing her departure, this represents a complete changeover from the trust's previous top management.

Ms Heatly has worked in the NHS for 25 years, starting as a general nurse in Edinburgh.

I wish Carole Heatly all the best with the challenges she will face in this exceptionally important appointment.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

E-Health supplement in today's FT

There is an interesting 70-page supplement in today's Financial Times about "E-Health" and particularly how electronic communications and data processing can support the NHS.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Save our Surgeries

The issues around health care in Cumbria (and the rest of the UK) do not just affect hospitals. I am becoming very concerned at the impact of several government policies on the viability of local doctor's surgeries, especially in rural areas.

I attended a meeting of the Gosforth and Ennerdale neighbourhood forum this evening at which two of the local councillors present reported on a meeting they had had earlier in the day with one of the senior partners of the practice which runs Seascale Health Centre.

The government is proposing that GP practices will no longer be allowed to run pharmacies where there is an independent pharmacy within a mile of the surgery. This could be very bad news for the Seascale health centre, as the income from the pharmacy compared to GP salaries translates as 1.5 FTE (Full Time Equivalent.) In other words Seascale may lose the equivalent of one and a half doctors if the government proceeds with this policy.

Overall some 17 GP practices in Cumbria are affected including two or three in Copeland: apart from the impact on Seascale health centre, this evening's meeting was told that the proposed pharmacy policy if adopted would present a serious threat to the viability of Bootle surgery. There is also a practice affected in Whitehaven.

This would be bad enough if the pharmacy policy was the only thing the government is doing which is likely to harm rural GP practices, but in fact it is one prong of a three-pronged assault. The second is the proposal to promote large "Polyclinics" with up to 20 doctors, to resource which it is likely that some smaller practices are closed. And the third is that Alan Johnson has announced he intends to abolish the minimum guaranteed practice income scheme which keeps many small surgeries open.

Taken together these policies represent a serious threat to our rural GP services, which following on from the loss of other rural amenities such as Post Offices is bad news for rural communities and also for urban communities in sparsely populated areas such as Cumbria.