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NHS 'Healthier Together' Consultation Is A Total Sham

Graham Stringer MP regrets £4m of incompetence

Published on July 30th 2014.

NHS 'Healthier Together' Consultation Is A Total Sham

IF IT achieves nothing else the Healthier Together consultation has managed one almost impossible feat; it has united Greater Manchester MPs across the political spectrum in opposition to it. To achieve this level of unity in the minefield of health policy, when constituency and ideological interests are at stake, is bordering on the miraculous.

This surprising common front arose initially from a private briefing held in a House of Commons committee room, on April 29 earlier this year.

I have never witnessed such an incompetent display from professionals in all my time as an elected representative. 

There was nothing unexpected in the Healthier Together team’s presentation of the problems facing the NHS in Greater Manchester: a projected black hole of £1billion in a £6billion budget, accident and emergency departments overwhelmed, an inability of many patients to get an appointment to see their GP when required and poor surgical standards in some hospitals leading to unnecessary deaths during and after operations.

The solutions, at least in principle, are straightforward: longer opening hours for GPs to take pressure off casualty departments, better care in the community to relieve the pressure and costs of patients who are in hospital unnecessarily and higher clinical standards during surgery.

So far so good no MP or anybody else could disagree with these laudable aspirations.

It was a different story when MPs started to fire off questions. I have never witnessed such an incompetent display from professionals in all my time as an elected representative. More than £4million had been spent on financial, legal and PR advice yet nobody knew if the proposals were lawful or financially viable.

Worse North Manchester General Hospital, Bury and Tameside are being downgraded without consultation but there will be consultation on the future of Bolton, Wigan, Wythenshawe and Stockport. Many decisions have obviously already been taken. Why? There was no answer.

Although it was claimed that there was widespread clinical support GPs, Hospital Trusts and Healthwatch have been queuing up to provide professional criticism. Healthwatch even claim that there is no legal power to spend the £4million that has already gone down the drain on this shambles.

There was one unambiguous, clear statement that no hospital or accident and emergency unit would close. Guess what? This commitment was left out of the consultation document. I am not surprised because with the 16% deficit predicted the future of 2 or 3 hospitals is in jeopardy. The downgrading of hospitals is the slippery slope to closure.

There has long been a semi-private view amongst health professionals that Greater Manchester only needed 4 or 5 super hospitals. We are continuing down the pathway that has closed Monsall, Booth Hall, the Jewish, the Northern, Ancoats and Withington and has reduced the services at Trafford and Rochdale. The consultation document is dishonest. It is not clear whether it is about creating specialist hospitals, primary care or higher clinical standards. It actually is about the closure of hospitals and further cuts.

The consultation document is full of pointless ‘apple pie and motherhood’ statements like ‘knowing the council and the NHS will work together to look after mum’ and ‘knowing that my patients will get the specialist care they need in an emergency’.

Pointless NHS apple pie statements

Pointless NHS apple pie statements

These are an insult to the reader’s intelligence as is the questionnaire. It is almost impossible to do anything but answer the questions in the affirmative. Of course we want change for the better but this consultation is a ruse to give the health authorities carte blanche to do whatever they wish.

This process has the stink of the congestion charge. Remember that? We were told that it had large public support from a similarly twisted questionnaire but when the public voted they rejected it by 4 to 1.

This process is no better because in public it is led by doctors. I trust them when I’m ill but not to decide the future of £6billion worth of public expenditure in which they have vested financial interests. Why don’t they tell us that Mott MacDonald, a large multinational business, is one of the partners in this project?   

The NHS is at a crossroads and big decisions on national and local financing as well as competition and privatisation will be taken by the party who wins the next general election. If the Conservatives win Mott Macdonald and so on will be given their head and privatisation will accelerate. A Labour Party victory will mean many of the changes that have happened in the last four years will be reversed but cash will have to be found to provide world class healthcare for everybody.

The present proposals are not credible as they stand. Their schedule needs to be aligned with the electoral timetable. In the meantime NHS Greater Manchester should concentrate on improving the management of its core services, many of which are poor. From booking appointments to care on wards and the provision of specialist nurses we need to get the basics right before we have yet another major reorganisation.

You can read the parliamentary debate hereYou can download the consultation document hereMy advice is don’t fill in the questionnaire, it is pointless, email your response to them here.

Confidential has asked for a response from the Conservative Party. 

Graham StringerGraham StringerGraham Stringer is the Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton with a majority of 12,303. He was elected to Parliament in 1997 for the now abolished constituency of Manchester Blackley.

Prior to this he was the Leader of Manchester City Council from 1984-1996. 

He is one of the few MPs to have science experience, as a professional analytical chemist. He is a member of The Science and Technology Committee at Westminster. 

Confidential welcomes columns from all sitting MPs in the area regardless of political party - as long as they are able to write interesting articles. 

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15 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Poster BoyJuly 30th 2014.

A truism. But amongst the rhetoric Mr Stringer very nearly speaks the truth the politicians dare not say. In the future, the sacred (sic) NHS is unmanageable and unfundable in its current form.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 31st 2014.

Completely agree...we need less service, not more. The last Labour government pushed the salaries of doctors and consultants to the present state where GPs running their own practices are guaranteed millionaires and the Consultants running A&E can resign and be re-employed as agency staff on £1,500 a shift. Simply put, we cannot afford to keep an unlimited and never ending service available to all. Bring in charges for GPs, fines and exclusions for people who constantly miss appointments, fines and exclusions for drunks and drug addicts who abuse staff, a refusal to send ambulances in selected cases, a refusal to treat smokers and the obese. Someone will say that people will die. Yes, they will. But if there's one absolute, it's that we all die.

Mark FullerAugust 2nd 2014.

Entirely agree with you Poster Boy. The N.H.S has become a quasi-religious cult. A complete change in our approach to our own health is required. But don't look to any government to facilitate this, they are too cowardly and beholden to vested interests to do this. Change will hopefully come from within people themselves, when they stop giving away their power to the medical establishment, who are little more than agents of the pharmaceutical industry. The reductionist, symptomatic approach of allopathic medicine is just one amongst many ways of approaching health. But the alternatives have been stifled by the pharmaceutical companies working through governments, and increasingly the EU. The N.H.S in it's current form, will eventually come crashing down, as all statist behemoths eventually do. But in the mean time, idiots from both sides of the left/right paradigm will continue to boast about how much money they are throwing at the bottomless pit that is the N.H.S.

Peter CoppingAugust 3rd 2014.

Hi Poster Boy. Whose your insurer??

Poster BoyAugust 3rd 2014.

Ignoratio elenchi.

AnonymousJuly 30th 2014.

Massive increases in doctors and dentists salaries in return for reduced patient access,and increased dental costs.Perhaps in his old age MR Stringer has forgotten the disastrous policies of his own Labour government.Not to mention all the PFI funded hospitals which crippled the NHS.In every article he writes whether about hospitals or trains Graham totally ignores the record of his own party when in government.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 30th 2014.

Some of the PFI deals were appalling. And look at the quality of the buildings this has left us with. Absolutely dreadful.

AnonymousJuly 31st 2014.

Time Graham went.......put an end to such long stints in office!

AnonymousJuly 31st 2014.

As I recall Booth Hall and Ancoats were closed under Grahams so called socialist Labour Government, yes, under his watch....they knew exactly what they were doing. Were they working towards a Common Purpose agenda to destroy the very good stuff going on in communities and hospitals if so, how much money has been spent in this city on Common Purpose training in other public sector bodies which uses taxpayers money...? Ask how many NHS staff have been trained in this way...and how many future leaders are currently being trained in how to become better managers and bureaucrats rather than the caring empathetic skilled valued staff members we used to know and love? No wonder whistle blowers are coming to the fore. PFI has got to be one of the biggest scandals of our time under the previous administration.

1 Response: Reply To This...
GimboidJuly 31st 2014.

I'm not a Labour supporter but it strikes me that you're being disingenuous. Is it not the case that those Booth Hall closed to be replaced by a much improved replacement hospital, surely thanks to Labour's substantially increased funding of the NHS. And Ancoats Dispensary closed in 1989. Pretty hard to blame that on Labour, considering they hadn't been in power for ten years and wouldn't be in power for another eight!

Mike WaterfootAugust 3rd 2014.

Well said Gymboid. You took the words right out of my mouth. Having visited the new Manchester a Children's Hospital on several occasions I am aghast how Booth Hall did all that marvelous work in what was like a pre Victorian barracks. Booth Hall was the best in it's time, but things move on thankfully

TimAugust 3rd 2014.

Charges to see the GP will stop the poor from going, as many don't see their dentist because of dental charges. Which will mean health problems will be missed and cost the NHS more in future. My grandparents didn't have the NHS and couldn't afford treatment for serious illnesses they had, we should value the service as the wonderful thing it is and not run it down- or turn it into one that excludes the poor.

TimAugust 3rd 2014.

The UK spends 17.7% of its GDP on healthcare, the UK spends 9.4%- which suggests not only is the NHS not "unfundable", it is far more efficient than the US system, before people get carried away by the idea of privatisation.

Peter CoppingAugust 3rd 2014.

Actually you can always go Private if you want for many procedures. The NHS is not compulsory. In fact ManCon'ers for many thing can fund themselves judging by the price of eating out at ManCon's favorite tables. Alliteratively you can fund the old like me to leave early.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 3rd 2014.

Well you could go private but the NHS still fund and provide your aftercare!

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