by Cllr Colin Martin
About the author
Cllr Martin is Lib Dem Cornwall Councillor for Lostwithiel. He is Vice Chairman of the Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee and a member of the panel of the Accountable Care System Inquiry
In this council session, Colin has a 100% attendance record at Council meetings he is expected at and has been ‘in attendance’ at 4 extra meetings.
Cllr Martin previously contributed Is Cornwall Council going to end the NHS in Cornwall in February? 28 concerns about the ACO
and made the news with his viral photo The ’10 Ambulances’ pic went viral – Councillor tells us of the brick wall of NHS funding
Comment & Opinion
- Four Minor Injury Units have been renamed as “Urgent Treatment Centres”
- This does not mean any new services have been added or removed
- Nobody is suggesting that 4 UTCs is enough for Cornwall
- This does not have any impact on any of the other hospitals in Cornwall
- Graham Smith has now declared that this means ALL other MIUs in Cornwall WILL close. This is nonsense.
Hospitals come in all shapes and sizes. Some have a nurse-led minor injury unit, some have an all-singing-all-dancing emergency department and major trauma centre complete with operating theatres, intensive care units and helicopter landing pads. Some hospitals have none of the above and are just for pre-booked treatment.
The Government have announced a new label: “Urgent Treatment Centre” which has more than a basic nurse-led MIU but not as much as a full emergency department. The definition also states that they only meet the description if they are open from at least 8am to 8pm.
NHS Kernow has now compared its list of existing hospitals to this new definition and concluded that West Cornwall Hospital already meets the description.
Three others are close(ish), but the NHS recognises that in rural areas it might not be appropriate for every area to have everything in the UTC description, so there will be discussions with NHS England to see if these three are close enough to use the name.
None of this actually changes what services are available now or pre-determines what services will be available here or elsewhere in the future.
I would describe Peter Levin as a “sceptic” because he doesn’t automatically assume the best intentions in every piece of news. Given his experience though, I think that’s fair enough. I will be following up the questions he has raised.
He is right to point out that if extra resources are put into some sites, this could mean less available elsewhere, so it is possible that some MIUs might close and if I’m honest, St Barnabas (which has already been temporarily closed and is only a short drive on a main road to Derriford) could be more at risk than some others.
We will continue to campaign for more funding from the Government so that we can maintain a high level of services in all areas, but in the meantime, these are the difficult choices we face.
HOWEVER, Graham Smith is not just a sceptic, or even just a journalist, he’s the chair of the North Cornwall Labour Party and he’s perfectly happy to twist every word to make the most outrageous story possible in the hope that it will win support for his party or get subscribers to his website (“motto “no clickbait, just journalism”).
Notes from Cornish Stuff:
The North Cornwall Labour website published this “2+2=5” article by Graham Smith : NAMED – THE TEN MINOR INJURY UNITS IN CORNWALL DUE TO CLOSE and Cornwall Reports published a similar article but behind a paywall.
Cornish Tories yesterday described these articles as ‘fake news’ but the fake news plague spread and Steve Double MP applied the term to the Dr Levin’s given headline as published on Cornish Stuff ‘NHS in Cornwall poised to close Minor Injury Units‘. We took offence at being labelled anything to do with ‘fake news’. See our Twitter spat here where the MP says Dr Levin’s report is too long to read.
The KCCG and Cornwall Conservatives seem to be confusing Dr Levin’s actual report with Graham’s analysis of the report. No where does Dr Levin mention ‘hit lists’ or use the words ‘imminent closures’ or name hospitals to close. There are 14 MIUs and there are 4 named potential UTCs, so the Graham has concluded the other 10 will close. The Labour party website article written by Smith was shared yesterday on social media.
Dr Levin himself told us yesterday “I wondered where ‘imminent closure’ had come from. I’ve been offered another form of words, ‘on the road to closure’, which I shall probably use from now on. It has the merit of being accurate!”
Comrade Smith goes the extra mile and concludes that ONLY the four hospitals listed as likely to be designated as UTCs in the next few weeks will be saved and that ALL of the others “are due to close”. To use the technical phrase; this is bollocks.
Does anyone really think that Liskeard will be the only hospital between Truro and the Tamar? That’s just crazy! It ain’t gonna happen.
— Graham Smith (@GrahamSmithCR) January 3, 2018
The only way to solve the current crisis at Treliske (and Derriford) is to give people MORE alternatives closer to home. At the moment, lots of people drive right past an MIU on their way to the Emergency Department because they believe (often correctly) that the MIU will simply keep them waiting for an hour and tell them to go and join the back of the queue at Truro (e.g. “sorry, you’re going to need an x-ray” / “sorry, you’re going to need a scan” / “sorry, you’re going to need to see a doctor”). The plan is to make MORE radiologists, diagnostic equipment and doctors available at lots of places across Cornwall so that you only need to go to Treliske or Derriford if your life is in danger.
I have asked questions to NHS officers in response to Graham Smith’s previous articles:
e.g. in “Cornwall will be leaving the NHS”: Smith says that we, in Cornwall, will no longer be subject to national standards.
The answer from the NHS: Cornwall will still be part of the NHS and must continue to meet ALL national standards. However, it may choose to set EXTRA targets which give Cornwall a HIGHER standard of care. He’s been given the same answer from at least three sources but this lie is still on his website.
He has said that all GPs will have their partnerships dissolved and be forced to work for a big private company. He says that patients will no longer be able to register with and NHS GP. He says that a private company will take over running all of Cornwall’s health services, with the power to refuse treatment to people with expensive conditions, demand payments from patients and keep the profits for private shareholders.
If any of this were true, then of course Cornwall Council would not support it, but instead of actually asking the questions, Smith just writes these apocalyptic click-bait stories so he can get more subscriptions to his website and recruit more members for the Labour party.
It’s really irresponsible; I’ve had disabled people emailing me begging me not to push them into private care that they can’t afford. I even had one woman tell me that this would be the last Christmas her children would spend with their father because they know they can’t afford the treatment which has been keeping him alive, and Graham Smith has told them it will not be free after February 8th!
The whole point of the changes we are making is to make it EASIER for people to get the care they need so they DON’T end up in a crisis which costs lots of money to fix and fills up the acute hospitals. Is closing MIUs at Bodmin, St Austell, Newquay, Bude, Launceston, Fowey and Saltash really going to achieve that goal?
There’s lots of information at www.shapingourfuture.info and I will try to keep sending out updates as often as possible over the coming weeks and months. Please don’t take everything Graham Smith says at face value. If it sound’s crazy, it’s probably because he’s just made it up.
It is true that MIUs do not currently seem to be stopping the crisis in Emergency Departments.
Will it help if we close them all? Of course not.
Will it help if we upgrade them so they can treat a wider range of patients? Most people say yes. At the moment most x-ray services in MIUs close at 5pm so all suspected fractures in the evenings and weekends end up at the ED.
We already have some MIUs under temporary closure and some which randomly close a few hours early simply because we can’t find enough nurses to staff them.
If we say that an upgraded service needs doctor support and more advanced diagnostic equipment, then this will obviously mean they need more staff.
I’m shouting as loudly as anyone for more NHS funding; if I was chancellor, I’d put a penny on income tax tomorrow, raise an extra £6bn per year and wipe out Cornwall’s NHS deficit overnight.
But I’m not chancellor and there is no general election due, so we’re forced to make the most of what we’ve got.
I’d rather have 9 or 10 really useful Urgent Treatment Centres than 13 MIUs which are under-staffed and under-resourced.
But nobody is suggesting that 4 UTCs is enough for Cornwall. The question is how many of the other 9 MIUs can we afford to upgrade. The answer might not be 9, but it definitely won’t be zero.
P.S. If you read the article “Ten MIUs to close”, he lists 7 which are open, 2 which are already “temporarily closed” and 1 which never had a Minor Injury Unit in the first place. But I guess “Ten” makes a better headline.
I asked Sheryll Murray if the Cornish MPs would stand together to demand better funding for Cornwall but she said that putting local needs ahead of the party was “blackmail” and she wasn’t prepared to do it.
We’re confusing two separate questions here:
1) How do we provide better long-term funding?
Answer: elect a majority of MPs who will raise enough taxes to provide the funding on a sustainable basis
2) in the short-term, how do we make the most of what we’ve got?
Answer: have as many useful, upgraded MIUs / UTCs as we can afford.
There will be meetings in February to consider the options for amount spent per site vs number of sites to keep open. These options will then go to a full public consultation in late spring / early summer.
You will be able to say which combination of sites and resources you think is best.
You can argue that keeping all the same sites open, but then there will be no money for upgrades.
Heck, you can even vote to have urgent care on every street corner if you like, as long as you realise that splitting the budget like this means there will just be a first aid kit and a “how to perform CPR” manual!
Or you can make the case for one hospital getting an upgraded UTC and somewhere else being closed.
But what you can’t vote for is more money. We had that chance on June 8th and elected 6 Conservatives who put the party ahead of Cornwall.
Please don’t be mad at the local councillors and staff who are trying to do the best with what they’ve got and have no power to increase the budget.
But until our MPs either change their hearts or get replaced, simply wishing for all MIUs to be upgraded isn’t going to make it happen.
You will get your chance to say which ones are more important to save than others, and I guarantee that we won’t be closing 10.
The Tories love it when the progressive people fight with one another as it splits the vote and lets them keep running the country with less than a 50% mandate.