On Saturday 4th March 2017 to coincide with the #ourNHS demo in London Keep our NHS Public Cornwall, 38 degrees Penzance and West Cornwall Healthwatch organised a successful march and rally in Truro in protest of the government’s ongoing attack on our health and social care services.
Louvain Sanders, Labour Party Bodmin Branch was asked to speak at the rally. Excerpt from the speech:
“The pain of mental illness is no less real than the pain of other illnesses. They affect all of us at some point in our lives; either directly or through a close friend or family member. 5% of people in Cornwall report long term, severe mental health problems. This is more than the national average. These problems can sometimes be fatal. Here in Cornwall we have one of the highest suicide rates in the country. People with mental health problems are more likely to die younger than the rest of the population, with some conditions up to 20 years younger. Quite often some of these early deaths are as a result of issues relating to poverty.
Cornwall has some of the poorest and most deprived neighbourhoods in Europe. People with mental health problems often experience worse housing, have a poorer diet and sometimes issues with drug and alcohol use. Unfortunately there is evidence that these people generally do not get a good service for their other health issues.
These are not just issues for mental health services, they are issues for our GPs, for Cornwall Council, for our drug and alcohol services and our social care providers who are all having their budgets squeezed as a result of this government’s austerity measures. We often hear news stories about bed blocking, about people queued on trollies in corridors and hospitals being on black alert. But what we don’t hear often enough is about those people waiting for admission to psychiatric hospital. This can involve many different professionals and services including Doctors, Social Workers, A&E departments and our police and ambulance services, who are all experiencing cuts to their budgets.
In 2011 funding for mental health fell for the first time in ten years and it has been falling ever since. Thousands of mental health beds across the country have been closed and too often, because of local bed shortages people are being admitted to hospital hundreds of miles from their homes. These placements are costly, they have a detrimental impact on patients and their families and are associated with an increase risk of suicide.
It would be incomprehensible for a person with a heart attack or a stroke to be sent to the other end of the country for treatment, so why is this happening in mental health services?
From this year student nurses will not be entitled to a bursary. As a result there has been a 23% reduction in applications in England for nursing courses. This is in the context of rising referrals to Community Mental Health Teams and a national crisis in recruitment and retention. This was actually predicted in 2013. Now £264 million worth of cuts are planned for Cornwall’s NHS.
Although Cornwall’s STP is being presented as a chance for services to work together for the benefit of patients and clients, the bottom line is that this is a government forced scheme in the context of already significant underfunding by this government. If the sums don’t add up when the STP is published in June and there is a potential risk to patient care, we need people with influence to say ‘No, this plan will not work’.
Approach your Cornwall Councillors and your MPs (some of whom would have voted for this) and demand that Cornwall receives appropriate mental health funding.
The NHS and social care needs to be in our minds when we vote for our Cornwall Councillors in May. The council will have an opportunity to scrutinise the STP, so I urge you all to vote wisely”.