This evening about 50 people attended a 'consultation' meeting about the changes happening in the NHS in Cornwall. We were told that health care provision in Cornwall is being taken out of NHS control, via the Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and run by consortia led by GPs. The GPs present were uninspired by the proposals but said that it was either this option or private companies taking over provision. An audience member made the point that transfering staff from the NHS to the new consortia will mean that deals on pay and working conditions won by NHS staff will be lost.
Questions and comments from the audience were mainly about the introduction of the market into the NHS and people were very concerned about what would happen if the GP consortia failed because GPs are not trained for such work and may not have the time to perform it. We were told that this was not "privatisation" because it would not be like going to a private health firm and paying for treatment, it is only that private companies can bid to run services and buy health care provision! Yes, that is privatisation. Someone in the audience made the point that if this initiative fails private companies will come in to bail Cornwall's health care system out. This was not denied by the panel.
People were really angry about this admission that private companies will be involved and were obviously upset about Cornwall leaving the NHS. In fact, everybody was angry and by the end they were berating the GPs and the PCT for going along with the Government's plans in such an unnecessarily exaggerated way. The panel (PCT, local authority and GPs) were putting it as if they had no choice in the matter, but there is no reason why Cornwall has to leave the NHS in this way. GPs highlighted the fact that the white paper is still being debated and the BMA is still in discussion with the Government.
The audience contained health workers who were upset about the plans.
The local authority also said they had ringfenced money for the "Healthy Lives, Healthy People" initiative which will be part of how health care is run, providing preventative schemes to boost public health. I brought up the point that early years intervention is essential, and Sure Start provides a place for children to learn healthy eating, social skills, mum's get breastfeeding support and so on, so why isn't the budget for Sure Start being protected under this scheme?
To contribute to the consultation on "healthy lives, healthy people" go to this website and maybe we can at least get them to spend this money on something worthwhile!
Penzance is definitely angry about this situation and there is a mood for local action against privatisation and cuts.