A well attended public meeting in Penzance Friday night overwhelmingly resolved to take a public protest to Government to “save our NHS”.
The meeting arranged by former MP and Health campaigner Andrew George was attended by more than 200 people.
The public’s first and immediate concern of the evening was the consultation on NHS cancer treatment centres that could result in equipment moving from the Sunrise Centre. Marna Blundy reminded the room that this was part of a national consultation and not something that any local manager would like to see. Setting the tone for the evening, Marna said that local managers and staff are all doing their best under enormous pressure caused by national cuts and top down change sent by Westminster. They are constantly being asked to do much more for much less.
A theme developed and Unite Union’s Stuart Roden drew applause when he said not to blame Cllr Rotchell who is in charge of trying to deliver Adult Social Care at the council with £35 million less than last year, or indeed local authority figures like him across the country.
Roden said the government are deliberately passing the blame for cuts on to local authorities.
The meeting broadly accepted that local health managers, like those on the panel, and Cornwall Council – as represented by Cllr Rotchell – were doing all they could to make the best of the inadequate budget provided by government and to make high-risk Government policy and management reorganisations “less bad” when rolled out in Cornwall.
Andrew George said, “Our NHS is on the verge of melt down. We can all see that our hardworking NHS staff are seriously overstretched with ambulances queuing, trolley waits extending, operations cancelled and services at breaking point. Having yet another reorganisation is not an answer to these problems. Nor does it help for Government Ministers and Conservative MPs to constantly re-announce grand-sounding but completely inadequate spending commitments, a blizzard of misleading numbers on doctor and nurse recruitment and to attempt to bewilder the public with meaningless management babble.
“The public deserve to have their voice heard. It’s clearly pointless to depend on local Conservative MPs who are content with the Government’s gradual winding down of the NHS. The local MP was of course invited but once again refused to come.”That’s why the meeting resolved to cut through the deliberate fog of uncertainty, bewildering management changes and mild management babble to take a fight to the Government to campaign for the money which is desperately needed to bring our NHS up to a level equivalent to comparable developed countries in Europe and elsewhere.”
The meeting discussed a wide range of issues facing the NHS – £100m local NHS debt – or even up to £250m according to Cllr Andrew Mitchell – ambulance queues, closed and community hospitals and inadequate hospital beds, overstretched staff and services, the risks of another reorganisation (ACS), budget-driven service changes (STP), threadbare mental health services, proposals to remove essential radiotherapy from the Sunrise centre, cancelled operations, threats to local Minor Injury Units and more.
On the ACS it was said it was not necessarily inevitable but that there was surely huge pressure from Westminster to deliver one.
Above all the meeting focussed on the inadequate NHS budget and the financial pressures which were at the route of all of the pressures faced by the NHS.
The meeting then took a vote to take the fight to Government. To make the case to put patients before profit, to support front line staff and to increase the NHS budget to save the NHS from an otherwise inevitable slide into much greater rationing and two-tier healthcare.
Andrew George promised to get back to those who attended the meeting and the hundreds of people who had sent apologies and to take the campaign forward, and with the support of West Cornwall Healthwatch.