Category Archives: NHS

Patients in Guildford and Waverley wait over a week to see GP


Thousands of patients wait over a week to see GP under David Cameron

1 in 5 patients in Guildford and Waverley waited seven days or longer to see a GP the last time they tried, an official NHS survey has found.

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20% of local patients – 40,000 people – faced a wait of a week or more when they phoned for an appointment in the last year. This is even worse than in England as a whole where 16%, or one in 6 patients, had to wait over a week.

Labour has pledged to invest £100 million in GP surgeries – saved by scrapping David Cameron’s NHS market rules that waste millions on lawyers’ fees and contract tendering – to guarantee appointments within 48 hours or on the same day for those who need it.

Richard Wilson, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate in Guildford said:

“David Cameron has made it harder for people in Guildford to get a GP appointment – proof he can’t be trusted with our local NHS.

“Within days of the last election, he abolished Labour’s appointments guarantee and now thousands of people here are waiting over a week. Labour will scrap David Cameron’s NHS market and invest the savings in helping people get a GP appointment within 48 hours or on the same day for those who need it.”

 

“This survey shows that in Guildford and Waverley the number of people waiting over a week for a doctor’s appointment is one of the highest in England. Residents of Guildford and Cranleigh tell me about unacceptable waits to see a GP nearly every day on the doorstep. The two current local MPs, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and former Public Health Minister Anne Milton, must act now to restore access to GPs with 48 hours. If elected next May repairing the damage caused to the NHS by the Conservative-LibDem Coalition will be my highest priority.”

Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:

“This survey confirms what Labour has been saying. People want to be able to see the GP they trust, and who knows their family history, but are left phoning the surgery day after day only to be disappointed. Patients are waiting days or even weeks for appointments and that is forcing people to A&E in record numbers.

“People know from their own experience that the NHS is heading downhill under this Government.”

Ends

 Notes:

  • GP survey statistics – NHS England CCG Report (July 2014) see “Making an Appointment” sheet, column BN:  http://gp-survey-production.s3.amazonaws.com/archive/2014/July/weighted/July%202014%20CCG%20Report%20weighted.xls
  • Richard Wilson is available on richard@guildfordlabour.org or 01483 511272. He was selected by local party members as Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for 2015 last November. He is a 42-year-old airline pilot who has lived in Surrey for 14 years.
  • The figures above are for Guildford and Waverley CCG. Guildford parliamentary constituency covers nearly half of the CCG’s area. Most of the remainder is in South West Surrey parliamentary constituency, whose MP is Jeremy Hunt, the current Health Secretary.

 

 

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Richard Wilson

Parliamentary Candidate

Guildford Labour Party

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Promoted by Alex Wilks on behalf of Richard Wilson, both of 9b Martyr Road, Guildford, Surrey GU1 4LF

 

Guildford NHS Special 29 Jan 2014


Yesterday, the Guildford Labour Party held its NHS Special event. It was a fascinating and informative evening. As the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, I addressed the meeting and I was really glad to see so many new members there.

The other presentations were very interesting. Here is a video which explains the current NHS top-down reorganisation:

There was also a talk from Ray Rogers, a Governor of the Royal Surrey County Hospital. I learned a lot about the means of holding foundation trusts to account. Ray’s blog is here.

It really is a tragedy that the NHS is being privatised and fragmented by the Conservatives and Lib Dems. Their “any qualified provider” clause is opening up the entire NHS to any private company. When Labour founded the NHS in 1948, a time of the deepest austerity, Aneurin Bevan said that the NHS is “a triumphant example of the superiority of collective action and public initiative applied to a segment of society where commercial principles are seen at their worst”.

I lived in the USA for over a year and saw the fear that a lack of universal healthcare provision causes. If people lose their job, they lose their healthcare, and so do their family. Even with insurance, long complicated treatment may not be funded and people could lose everything they own and become destitute if they are taken ill.

“Illness is neither an indulgence for which people have to pay, not an offence for which they should be penalised, but a misfortune, the cost of which should be shared by the community.” – Aneurin Bevan

Speakers from the floor joined me in deploring the way many carers are treated and agreed that social care should be better funded to save hospital capacity and costs. We discussed Andy Burnham’s “whole person care” where physical, mental and social care would be combined in a new National Health and Care Service.

The only way to rescue the NHS is to ensure a Labour majority government is elected at the 2015 election and the Tory-LibDem Health and Social Act is repealed.

“The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.” – Aneurin Bevan

Local NHS Campaigning Achieving Results


The one political issue which means the most to me is the NHS. It exemplifies how I believe we, as a society, should look after each other. It is the greatest achievement of the Labour Party and the best-loved institution in the United Kingdom.

While the NHS is a national issue, hence the name, I am committed to local, community, campaigning. Someone asked me recently where I see myself on a scale from the left to the right of the Labour Party. I answered that I’m not on that one-dimensional scale. You have to add a dimension, top-to-bottom, to find where I am. I’m down at the bottom, in the grass roots, fighting for change in communities with real people. You don’t have to be a Trot or a Blairite to realise that, for example, GP surgeries using premium rate numbers for patients to make appointments is morally wrong. The way to end this is through ground-up campaigning.

We’ve got your number

As the Tory-LibDem Coalition races on with the privatisation and fragmentation of the NHS, small but noisy local campaigns can still have successes for local people. The most commented on post on this blog is this one about the premium rate phone numbers used by local GP practices. By highlighting this breach of the doctors’ contract publicly and repeatedly I drew much criticism and even threats of legal action. However, I’m pleased to announce that one of the two local surgeries using the 0844 numbers has scrapped it and is now exclusively using a local number. The other one, Lightwater, continues to rip off its patients by having an 0844 number but also has a local number. This is inadequate, of course, and the campaign will continue until they scrap their premium rate number and apologise to their patients and me for their misleading and derogatory statements.

Ethical or unethical healthcare?

Another promising development, after a long local campaign, is that Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group have agreed to consider changes to their constitution proposed by the Surrey Heath members of 38 Degrees. This would help ensure that only ethical providers of healthcare are used and not tax evaders or companies with criminals on their boards. Here is the latest letter I received from Dr Andy Brooks, the CCG’s Chief Officer:

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

It is important to remember that local Conservatives have opposed any restrictions on the commissioning of healthcare. A local Tory councillor, Denis Fuller, took to the letters page of a local newspaper to vilify me as a ‘hypocrite’ among other names, for trying to keep healthcare providers ethical. He objected to them having to pay tax in the UK.

This is what we are up against: the Conservative agenda is to sell off all of our public services and channel the money from them to private companies which they and their supporters benefit from. This is happening apace in the NHS and is why it is absolutely vital that we have a Labour government after the 2015 election. If I have to take some public abuse from blustering Tory councillors or some legal threats from greedy businessmen to achieve these local successes, so be it.

PMQs: Ed Miliband challenged Cameron on A&E crisis


Last Wednesday, I was so pleased to hear Ed Miliband take on David Cameron about the waiting times crisis in Accident and Emergency wards across England. This is such a pressing threat for all of us, including here in Surrey. As usual, local radio broke this story before the mainstream national media. I was interviewed on BBC Surrey in their Guildford studios a couple of weeks ago about this (audio only):

More information is on this earlier blog post.

The fact is that there are 6,000 fewer nurses in the NHS since the election in 2010. Wherever the NHS or social care system is squeezed, the effects are felt in A&E.

The NHS 111 phone number which replaced NHS Direct is 46 cut-price contracts across the country where nurses have been replaced by computers and usually computer says, “Go to A&E.”

Social care for elderly people is being delivered in 15 minute slots by private contractors paying the minimum wage. Because of this the number of over 90-year olds arriving in A&E on a ‘blue light’ ambulance has increased by 66% over the last two years. These are our mums and dads and grandparents and they are being failed utterly by the Tory-LibDem policy of privatising and fragmenting the NHS, which nobody voted for. In fact, they promised in their manifesto that there would be NO top-down reorganisation of the NHS!

Last summer saw the first ever summer crisis in A&E. This winter could see the NHS reach breaking point. The Surrey Heath Labour Party is conducting a Community Survey to understand local people’s experience of the NHS and what they would like to see changed. You can fill it in here.

Here is a copy of the survey leaflet which is being delivered across Surrey Heath constituency at the moment.

NHS Survey winter 2013/14

There has been a great response already. The NHS is the country’s greatest achievement, don’t let Cameron destroy it!

Freedom of Information Act Reveals Shocking Increase in Waiting Times at Frimley Park Hospital


Press Statement 15 October 2013 – For Immediate Release

 

Freedom of Information Act Reveals Shocking Increase in Waiting Times at Frimley Park Hospital

 

A recent Freedom of Information Act request [see note 1] has revealed that waiting times at Frimley Park Hospital’s A&E department have shot up since the general election. The request was made by well-known local NHS campaigner Richard Wilson [see note 2].

 

The data supplied by Frimley Park Hospital Trust shows that in some months before the election as few as 1% of patients had to wait over 4 hours, compared with as many as 6.7% this year. Also, the typical waiting time before 2010 was often less than 2 hours. By 2013 most people were waiting over 3 hours in many months, an increase of over 50%.

 

Richard Wilson said, “The whole of the country is suffering a crisis in A&E and Surrey Heath is no exception, as this information from Frimley Park Hospital shows. This is a direct result of government policy. The Tory-LibDem Coalition have conducted a massive top-down reorganisation of the NHS. They are allowing ‘any willing provider’ to bid for NHS contracts. This is fragmenting and privatising the NHS which is Britain’s best-loved institution.”

 

On the situation in Surrey Heath, Richard Wilson said, “In Surrey Heath some doctors’ surgeries still use premium phone numbers despite this being banned in the NHS. This deters people from visiting their GP and makes it more likely they will have to use A&E. The out-of-hours GP service and NHS 111 phone number, which are both contracted out, cannot cope. Frimley Park Hospital is highly regarded by local people but, with these additional burdens, this winter could see its A&E department reach breaking point.”

 

Ends

 

Note 1: The data is available here: http://wilsonrichard.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/ae-wait-times.pdf

Note 2: Richard Wilson is a community activist living in Windlesham. He is 41 years old and works as an airline pilot. He was the Labour Party candidate for Bagshot, Windlesham & Chobham division of Surrey County Council on 2 May 2013. More information is here http://wilsonrichard.com/about/ or on 01276 479658 or 07939 273229 or richard_wilson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @windleshamrich

Waiting Times Crisis Hits Frimley Park Hospital


I have recently received this information by using the Freedom of Information Act: A&E Wait Times. It reveals a shocking increase in waiting times at A&E at Frimley Park Hospital. The typical time a patient can expect to wait to be seen has risen by over 50%, from under 2 hours to over 3 hours, since the Tory-LibDem Coalition came to power in 2010 and started a massive top-down reorganisation of the NHS. They botched the introduction of the new NHS 111 phone number which left people with no alternative but to go to A&E. Out-of-hours GP services, which are contracted out, also cannot cope.

The funds wasted on private contractors and unnecessary structural change could have been invested in improving accident and emergency care. Instead we now have a crisis across the county, including at Frimley Park Hospital which is highly regarded by local people and its deteriorating performance will be a great concern to residents nearby. Frimley Park Hospital serves Surrey Heath, the parliamentary constituency of Michael Gove the Education Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful, and Farnham, which is part of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s constituency. Gove’s and Hunt’s constituents will now be wondering how their hospital can cope through this winter when demand on A&E will increase.

In Surrey Heath some GP surgeries still use premium rate phone numbers despite it being forbidden for years. Even the local doctors’ group admits this deters people from using their GP and makes it more likely they will go to A&E. Regular readers will remember that I have been campaigning against this practice for some time.

The neglect of the NHS since the election in 2010 has been worsened by the Tory-LibDem Health and Social Care Act which allows “any willing provider” to bid for NHS work. This is fragmenting and privatising the NHS. Staff are demoralised and patients suffering.

Labour has pledged to repeal the Act but our work will not end there. As always, when a Labour government comes to power they have to clean up the mess that the Conservatives have made of the NHS. In 2015, Jeremy Hunt’s mess will be the biggest one yet. In 1997, Labour had to clear up after Thatcher and Major who had patients waiting on trolleys in corridors thanks to their chronic under-funding. By 2015 the situation could be even worse.

Even here, in Surrey Heath, the percentage of people waiting over 4 hours at A&E has jumped from 1% to 6.7%. The National Health Service is Britain’s best-loved institution. This winter people across the country will realise you can’t trust David Cameron with the NHS.

NHS Group’s Public Meeting 24 Sept 2013


I spent this evening at the Public Stakeholder meeting of Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group. This is the newly-formed group of doctors’ surgeries which now controls an annual budget of about £105m to provide much of the healthcare for 90,000 residents of Surrey Heath. The area they cover is not exactly the same as the borough nor the constituency of Surrey Heath. It includes Ash but doesn’t include Chobham and West End. Most of the annual budget (£60.2m) is spent on hospital care, all at Frimley Park Hospital, I think.

Here is the agenda of tonight's meeting.

Here is the agenda of tonight’s meeting.

I have been to a few meetings of the CCG before and there were about 30 members of the public there tonight. At my table there were patients’ representatives, a hospice representative, a SCC officer, a youth worker and the police commander of West Surrey. I’m not sure if there were any councillors there but I didn’t recognise any. Everyone was very engaged with health and/or social care services. 

We were all welcomed to the meeting by Sir Edward Crew, the Chairman of the CCG. Ted used to be Chief Constable of Surrey Police and his daughter is the current holder of that post.

Next followed presentations by Dr Andy Brooks (Chief Officer), Alison Huggett (Director of Quality & Nursing), Gareth Jones (Lay member of board) and Mel McKeown (Commissioning Support Unit).

One of the ‘Strategic Areas of Change’ that the CCG are planning is a 20% reduction in spending on acute hospital care in the next three years. This is a very ambitious aim and will require substantial measures to prevent or divert hospital admissions and readmissions.

The CCG measures its performance using a ‘Balanced Score Card’ which rates them on different measures. One of the ‘indicators’ which is measured is the financial surplus that the CCG generates. They have a ‘Green’ for that, ie they are running a large surplus. I pointed out that patients will not be happy to hear this, they will want the CCG to spend their budget to give us the best possible healthcare.

The CCG is also rated according to how well their providers perform. This year there was a so-called ‘never event’ at Frimley Park Hospital, something that should never happen in a million years. A swab was left inside a patient after surgery. This is a dreadful mistake to happen and reduced the CCG’s rating under ‘Are local people getting good quality care?’.

There were some other notable statistics, like 13% of people in Surrey Heath are disabled and over 9% are unpaid carers.

We went on to discuss the best way to engage ‘hard to reach groups’ in our tables. Alison Huggett chaired the discussion at our table. The CCG already had identified certain groups including by geographical area. They asked us, the public, which other groups they should focus on. I pointed out that travellers are hard to reach groups and explained the nature of these groups in Surrey Heath. Travellers have significantly worse health outcomes than the settled population so I felt it was important for the CCG to prioritise their care even though they are a small proportion of our population. Other participants mentioned young people and drug users as other hard to reach groups which hadn’t already been mentioned. 

The next breakout session was on the Draft Commissioning Intentions. There were 20+ draft commissioning projects in 6 categories: Unplanned Care, Planned Care, Mental Health, Children & Families, Enabling Projects and Medicines Management. Then there were some sample patient outcomes which we were asked to prioritise.

My two favoured outcomes were equalising health inequalities and integrating health and social care. Surrey Heath generally has very good health, mostly because it is a wealthy area, but it is a source of shame that we have a few deprived areas which suffer very poor health. I’m in favour of Andy Burnham’s ‘Whole Person Care’ where physical, mental and social care, especially for the elderly, are integrated. I would like to see local council social care more involved. A £50 handrail, paid for from social care budget, could save someone from a fall and broken bones which would cost the NHS thousands of pounds, not to mention the pain and distress that could be prevented.

At the very end there were two public questions, including mine:

On 11 February 2013, a group of your patients representing the non-party political online campaigning community 38 Degrees presented a petition to Chief Officer Andy Brooks. We requested that the CCG consider some improvements to the constitution. These have been written to be legally water-tight by 38 Degrees’s lawyers and would help to build public trust by pledging to behave ethically and openly. Has the management board considered these improvements and what actions will they be taking now?38 Degrees

The answer was read out and I’m hoping to receive an email with the full answer soon. Basically, they will consider it in October. So just one more month to wait. After the meeting I spoke to Mel McKeown who works with other CCGs and she said that many other CCGs have adopted the 38 Degrees constitution amendments. I’m optimistic that they will decide to make the change that their patients want and include an ethical and social dimension to commissioning.

Overall, I enjoyed the event. I like to have my say about important issues and the NHS is the most important of all. I was listened to, so I can’t complain about that. My real interest is in commissioning decisions and much of that is outsourced to the Commissioning Support Unit or hasn’t come up yet. Commissioning is a complicated business and our CCG is one of the smallest in the country. By giving away the negotiating of contracts, I hope they haven’t given away the local power. Ted Crew ended the meeting by asking us to spread the word and get more members of the public to participate in these meetings. I’m happy to do this. The CCG is an important opportunity to have your say about the NHS. I’m so glad that Ed Miliband has confirmed that the Health and Social Care Act will be repealed in 2015 but equally I’m sure there will be a place for GP commissioning under the Labour government. Go along or fill in an online survey or phone them and tell them what you think.

Invitation to Surrey Heath CCG event on 24 Sept


The invitation below arrived today. We are all invited to the next public stakeholder event of Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group. I can recommend attending and, in particular, submitting a written question to ensure you get to ask your question. If you want to have your say on the NHS locally, this is the place to be. They are required to listen to us, so don’t miss the opportunity. Regular readers will remember the last one and the compelling 38 Degrees petition we handed in.

Invitation to SHCCG

 

 

Surrey Heath CCG Newsletter 1


The Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group is a new group of doctors set up under the wide-ranging NHS reorganisation that is taking place. More information about them here.

I recently received their first newsletter. It was interesting to read the report and feedback from the AGM that I attended and participated in. The CCG says:

We are committed to open and honest dialogue with our community and welcome the involvement of patients and their families, representatives from local organisations and the public.

I hope that they live up to this commitment and accept the minor changes in their constitution that have been proposed by 38 Degrees on behalf of hundreds of their patients who signed a petition. These changes would make the CCG more transparent and ensure only ethical providers of healthcare are used who pay their taxes in the UK and treat their employees properly. A local Tory councillor, Denis Fuller, recently spoke out strongly in a local newspaper against these changes and in favour of the CCG using unethical providers. I believe that the people of Surrey Heath would disagree with him. These out of touch Tories will certainly have their say in how the CCG will be run, so it’s vital that the rest of us do too.

Also, at the AGM some people said they wanted the CCG to concentrate its resources on more deprived areas of the borough and on vulnerable and hard to reach groups, including the traveller community who often suffer from ill health due to being isolated by people’s prejudices. Commissioning and spending decisions should reflect these priorities in future.

If you would like to receive future CCG newsletters, there is an email address on the newsletter to sign up. The more people who get involved, the more influence we can have on how the NHS is run locally. The government’s reforms are designed to open up services to privatisation. Until the next election the only way to protect our NHS from this is to get involved and have your say.

Surrey Heath doctors’ group AGM 20 June


I went along to the AGM of Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group this evening. It was a very interesting evening and the two and a half hours passed very quickly.

CCGs are the new groups that GPs are required to form to commission health services for their patients. This means that they will decide which providers to refer people to. For example, SHCCG commissions Frimley Park Hospital to provide many services for them.

For me, this new system is controversial for two reasons. Firstly, when the NHS is being squeezed financially and having greater demands placed on it, it is not the right time for a major top-down reorganisation. Secondly, the ‘any willing provider’ clause in the new Health and Social Care Act worries me. It means that dodgy unethical companies can tender and be considered for contracts where they will replace the public NHS.

Anyway, we are where we are and within the new system patients and the public do have a voice so it was good to hear people using it tonight. I had my say too. Some important background is here.

There were about 40 people there and I recognised about a quarter of them. The CCG chairman, Sir Edward Crew, welcomed us. I know Sir Edward is a former police officer and was Chief Constable of Surrey Police. I had a chat with him afterwards. I also know he objected to the Watchetts garden-grabbing (like I did) and he nominated a UKIP candidate in the elections in May (I didn’t do that), but we didn’t discuss these subjects.

The Chief Officer, Dr Andy Brooks, the Director of Quality and Nursing, Alison Huggett, and the Director of Operations, Nicola Airey, gave presentations on the CCG’s vision, the local health profile and the commissioning cycle. Many of the officers seem to have changed since I attended last year’s meeting.

The CCG has an annual budget of £108million and provides many of the healthcare services for a population of 90,000. It is the second smallest CCG in England. £60.2million gets spent on ‘acute care’ i.e. Frimley Park Hospital. £12million goes on prescribed medicines. £2.8million is spent on ambulance services. Some of the budget is already out-sourced to private companies and it seems likely (to me) that they will feel it necessary to commission more private companies as the financial squeeze intensifies.

Surrey Heath is a wealthy area and life expectancy is around the highest in the country. However, there are geographical areas within it and groups of people where health outcomes, as they are called, are well below the rest. It was really good to see that the consensus of the meeting was that these areas and groups should be targeted and prioritised for support. Specifically, Old Dean, St Michaels and Ash Wharf wards and traveller and BAME communities were favoured for investment in preventative measures.

The Health and Social Care Act requires CCGs to involve patients so this was mentioned frequently during the presentations. The attendees were all engaged, informed and fluent. The feedback throughout from the audience was of a very high quality. If the CCG is really interested in public opinion then they have plenty to work with. However, we were a self-selecting group. I hate to say it but we were uniformly middle class and brought our own agendas with us. That is inevitable and probably led to the high quality of the contributions. It would have been nice to have ordinary members of the public there too.

After the presentations we split into 5 groups to answer questions about how the CCG should proceed. My table had to consider how we could encourage people to take more responsibility for their own health, particularly regarding smoking, drinking, obesity and fitness. We came up with lots of practical ideas. I was our group’s spokesperson at the end.

When each of the groups reported on their discussions, there was quite a lot in common. We favoured supporting disadvantaged groups in society and there was approval for joint commissioning by both health and social care authorities. I was pleased to hear about the CCG’s plans to support carers more.

Before the end there was a short question and answer session. My written question was first up:

Has the CCG considered the petition and request for changes to the constitution delivered to the Chief Officer on 11 Feb by members of 38 Degrees, the online campaigning community? This petition was signed by hundreds of your patients and calls for legally water-tight changes to your constitution to ensure propriety, transparency and that only ethical providers are used.

Dr Brooks read out the following answer:

Thank you for forwarding the document detailing those amendments 38 Degrees would wish to see made to the Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Constitution. As I am sure you and your fellow members locally are aware, the Constitution was a requirement of the Authorisation process for all CCGs. It came with extensive guidance from NHS England and we like our colleague CCGs elsewhere followed that guidance.

The CCG is currently looking at an annual work programme and I will ask that a review of the Constitution is built into this work programme. My initial thoughts would be that this  would sit most comfortably with some of the work we intend to carry out around our three year strategy. This is due to take place from October. I would like to propose therefore that  in the first instance I  and my Governing Body colleagues review the changes suggested by your organisation, with a view to a response report going to the Governing Body in the autumn.

This answer has good news and bad news. The good news is that the CCG is considering our request seriously. Since the request is reasonable and in accord with their vision, we can be optimistic. The bad news is that this is obviously not a priority for them since it has taken so long.

Overall, I found the meeting very useful. There will be many more of them and it’s really important that as many people as possible attend and tell the CCG how we want them to spend our money and look after our health. Yes, the Health and Social Care Act is designed to destroy the NHS as we know it but if we keep away from events like this we will be leaving the NHS to its fate.

CCG Leaflet p1

CCG Leaflet p2

 

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