On 27th April, the Public Accounts Committee reported on the planned shake-up of the NHS. They said that “pushing through the changes while seeking £20 billion in efficiency savings may damage front-line services.” So I wrote to our MP Jonathan Djanogly, asking if he shared the concerns of that committee, which comprises MPs from all sides. Amongst a number of questions I asked, I was particularly keen to hear how Hinchingbrooke Hospital could be affected. Here's what I sent:
Dear Mr Djanogly,
Do you share the concerns of the Public Accounts Committee about Andrew Lansley's NHS plan? Please could you tell me what you will do to make sure their concerns are listened to?
I am not convinced that Andrew Lansley wants to listen to anyone about his NHS plans. The listening exercise seems like it might just be a PR stunt.
Where do you stand on making real changes to Lansley's NHS plans? For example will you push to remove promotion of competition within the NHS and place the focus on cooperation and quality of care instead? And how will it affect Hinchingbrooke Hospital, a place dear to me, having used it, and my son Ben was born there.
The reply I received answered some of my more general questions but made no reference at all to Hinchingbrooke. What’s more, the reply “answered” two points that were not even in my letter! This led me to wonder if I had merely received a standard reply, rather than a more specific one. Surely even a standard reply from the Huntingdon MP should include a reference to the main hospital in his constituency? After all, on his own website back in November, Mr Djanogly wrote “Hinchingbrooke Hospital is a well used and much admired local health facility. I will be looking to ensure that the level of care service provision is maintained at the current level.”
Here is the reply:
Dear Mr. Greenall,
Thank you for contacting me about the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)'s report into the NHS Landscape Review.
I would like to reassure you that the Government’s listening exercise is genuine. Ministers are taking the opportunity of the natural break in the legislative process to pause, listen, reflect on and improve these plans for NHS modernisation. Where there are good suggestions to improve the legislation and the implementation of our plans, changes will be made.
Although the PAC agreed that the Government's plan to modernise the NHS could help the NHS become a more efficient service, the PAC also asked a number of important questions about the modernisation plans. The Government recognises the importance of addressing these questions, and will seek to do so with the help of other frontline NHS staff, patients and members of the public during the listening exercise.
About the issue of trialling the Government's plans. The Government established its programme of 'pathfinders' late last year, to help test the NHS modernisation plans and ensure they work in the best interests of patients. The lessons learned from the pathfinder programme will feed into the listening exercise, helping ensure that the plans are improved still further.
Thank you for contacting me on this issue.
I have had cause to use A & E at Hinchingbrooke twice myself in the past, and my son was born there. For that reason if no other, it has a place in my heart. Last year, our MP said “This is a testing time for Hinchingbrooke .......”let us all get behind our valued local hospital and not let constructive debate become damaging sniping.”
I hope Mr Djanogly doesn’t think that I am sniping in a damaging way. Hence, I do look forward to the results of Andrew Lansley’s listening exercise, which Mr Djanogly assures me is genuine. I sincerely hope that where good suggestions are made to improve the NHS, they are taken on board. After all, David Cameron promised last year “I'll cut the deficit, not the NHS." With the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing warning that the proposed NHS shake up represents a privatisation of the health service, we must hope Mr Cameron and his MPs are being sincere with us.