Tameside Hospital seems to be in the press every week for all the wrong reasons. in recent years there have been headlines about high death rates, poor staffing levels, and ever increasing levels of debt.
This month Monitor, the sector regulator for health services in England, announced that management consultants PWC would be brought in to help manage the hospital. Tameside Hospital management responded; “Health and social care delivered in its current form, not just in Tameside, but across England, is unsustainable. We are very pleased to be leading the way, along with our commissioners and our local authority, in developing a new type of hospital for the benefit of our local community”
People in Tameside need good health services as a recent report produced by Public Health England revealed. It said, “The health of people in Tameside is generally worse than the England average. Deprivation is higher than average and about 23.7% (10,300) children live in poverty. Life expectancy for both men and women is lower than the England average.”
Milton Pena, a recently retired consultant and whistleblower at Tameside Hospital, is not surprised at the latest turn of events. “It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Year after year there have been ‘efficiency savings’ which meant the constant closure of beds and the understaffing of the service.”
Pena worked at Tameside Hospital for 17 years and believes that it has never been properly financed as a hospital. Pena is sceptical about the role of PWC as he says they were called in in 2011. “PwC were paid £0.8m fees for their services. The “efficiency” savings they planned added up to some £11m as I recall. Divided in various “work streams” over one year. It was only because of the Keogh report that this did not happen.”
Local campaigners in Keep Our NHS Public have been frustrated by the lack of information and consultation that has come out of the Tameside Hospital, Tameside CCG, Tameside Council and the local MPs.
Over the last year the consultation process of the Healthier Together project has been rolling out across Greater Manchester. Healthier Together has been devised by the CCGs and NHS England to change the way health care is delivered locally. They say; “With many of our hospitals failing, the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) across Greater Manchester came together three years ago ago deciding that no change is no longer an option. Healthier Together have spent the time between now and then putting together proposals for a sustainable NHS in Greater Manchester that can also become one of the best healthcare systems in the UK”.
Meetings were held across Greater Manchester but with record low attendance from users of the NHS. I attended one of the meetings in Tameside and, whilst the meeting was packed with GPs and health professionals, charities connected to the NHS and local councillors, there were precious few local people.
The “choice” presented at the meeting boiled down to whether there should be 5 or 4 specialist hospitals across the Greater Manchester area, with the other hospitals, such as Tameside, being classed as non-specialist and downgraded. No budgetary information was given at any of the meetings nor any real evidence that this model could resolve the real issues of providing services to meet the needs of the local population and meeting the increasing costs of the NHS.
Hugh Caffrey, secretary of Greater Manchester KONP, comments, “The so-called ‘consultation’ of Healthier Together is a discredited farce. KONP has warned all along that this was no consultation but merely window-dressing for financially-driven cuts. Healthier Together should be withdrawn along with all the associated threats to healthcare provision”.
At the meeting representatives from the Tameside CCG promoted the model of an integrated care system as the answer to the problems regarding Tameside Hospital. And at a recent meeting of Tameside KONP with one of the GPs on the CCG he reiterated the idea that Tameside Hospital represented an out of date model for the modern NHS. Instead they were proposing a new model called Care Together which would produce an integrated model of NHS services.
The response of KONP has been to challenge this model and indeed point to a failed project on the other side of Greater Manchester at Trafford General Hospital, the birthplace of the NHS in 1948. It was downgraded as a local hospital despite a big campaign led by local people, health workers and councillors. The A&E was closed, the promised local community services were not set up and, as local KONP member Pia Feig comments; “Patients fled from what they saw was a down-graded service in Trafford General”.
It is this model that is now being planned for Tameside Hospital. In a response to a question from Tameside KONP local MP and Shadow Health spokesperson Andrew Gwynne said; “Tameside Council and Tameside & Glossop CCG are both in the process of coming together to establish an integrated care organisation for the borough and it’s crucial, in my opinion, that the Hospital should have a key role in that process too, not least because that can guarantee a long-term future (and clinical purpose) for Tameside General Hospital”.
But the conclusions of a commission of inquiry on hospital care for frail older people, set up by the Health Service Journal, has questioned the premise of this integrationist strategy; “There is a myth that providing more and better care for frail older people in the community, increasing integration between health and social care services and pooling health and social care budgets will lead to significant, cashable financial savings in the acute hospital sector and across health economies. The commission found no evidence that these assumptions are true.”
Tameside KONP is the only organisation in the borough that has gone out and spoken to people about their concerns over local healthcare. We have organised street stalls, given out information about the changes since the Health & Social Care Act 2012, have met with the local CCG and MPs, but there is a reluctance by them to have an open and informative debate with patients and health workers about local health services.
Just this week we have found out through another KONP branch that Tameside is on a list of proposed NHS Trusts/Foundation Trusts selected for the ‘Mutuals in Health: Pathfinder Programme’ . Again no information has gone out to local people and no discussion has taken place.
Michael Herbert of Tameside KONP said; “Local people know what they want; they want to keep the hospital with all its services. This is a message the politicians, the CCG and the management of the hospital are failing to listen to.”
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