Monday, 15 March 2010

Ongoing campaign for local hospitals

This letter appeared in Richmond and Twickenham Times on Frday, 12th March 2010.

Dear Sir,

The confusion created by your coverage last week on Kingston Hospital has made bad matters worse, and just at a time when greater clarification was expected and required from our PCT, NHS Richmond.

Requests under the Freedom of Information Act have been turned down on the pretext, you report, that they were “too wide in their scope”. But a simple question has also been lodged with NHS Richmond calling for the full brief to be made public, to which the ‘Clinical Strategy Group’ set up by the joint PCTs of SW London has been working. The continued refusal to answer this simple question - who has told the clinical group to do what, by when? - does NHS Richmond no credit, with its duty to share basic information “at an early stage in the policy development process”

The Clinical Strategy Group may have its importance but it can only make recommendations. In no way can it usurp the authority of the Joint PCTs to whom it reports. Nor, contrary to the statement of one of its three joint directors, Dr Freeman, can it “rule out” options, such as keeping all four hospitals, including Kingston, “open round the clock”. Nor will it be producing the final options for consultation with the public.

Further, Dr Freeman goes on to say that a major reason for changes is that the NHS in SW London is “tired and jaded”. Poppycock! If that is how the Board of NHS Richmond regards itself and sets out to win the essential support of its partners and patients, then I’m a double dutchman (if you’ll pardon my French).

The NHS should borrow a leaf from the military. Generals have good cause to query their lords and masters for being “disingenuous..... and not telling the truth”, and they do so publicly. They do not call their troops “tired and jaded”.

Of all the many problems, a major one concerns SW London’s Mental Health Trust, just as much as its four A and E hospitals. What changes can the five PCTs make in their commissioning systems that would enable these key health providers to plan with confidence their statutory duty to break even? Professor Darzi dodged this problem in his clinical report on ‘Healthcare for London’. If the NHS and its London Strategic Health Authority continue to dodge, then it’s up to SW London and its Joint PCTs, led by NHS Richmond, to come up with a solution.

Yours sincerely,

Francis King


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