26th February 2018
By Graham Smith
Cornwall councillors hoping to learn more about their proposed takeover of the National Health Service have been surprised to learn that a special “all member” briefing, promised for this week, has been cancelled.
Many councillors are concerned that the council’s cabinet will now decide to go ahead with an Accountable Care System (now called Integrated Strategic Commissioning) at its meeting on 28th March, without first hearing the opinions of all members. This meeting is expected to rubber-stamp the officials’ determination to launch a “shadow” health board on 1st April, transferring many of the NHS Kernow responsibilities to County Hall.
An email sent to all members on Thursday said “that due to the postponement of the relevant items the Leader has agreed that the All Member Briefing scheduled for the 1st March can be cancelled.”
The Leader of the council is Launceston Liberal Democrat councillor Adam Paynter, whose decision appears to have taken some officials by surprise. Cornwall Reports is still waiting for an explanation.
After several councillors expressed concern, chief executive Kate Kennally replied: “I am looking into this and will come back with a response on Monday (today.) It is important that there is an opportunity for an all member briefing on the plans to worker closer with the NHS before cabinet on the 28th of March.”
The suggestion that Ms Kennally did not know in advance of councillor Paynter’s decision is particularly intriguing. The question heard near County Hall water-coolers is: “Did Adam do this without asking Kate?”
Outside of small committees or the 10-member cabinet, members of the council have never debated the desirability of devolving healthcare to Cornwall, on a single fixed five year budget. Health campaigners fear this exposes Cornwall’s NHS to even greater risk of privatisation. Progress towards the imminent launch of an Accountable Care System was carefully prepared18 months ago, initially amid great secrecy, and came close to slipping through without notice until late last year.
Did council leader Adam Paynter cancel the promised all-member briefing without asking chief executive Kate Kennally? And if so, why?
Since then the political controversy has prompted a Parliamentary Select Committee investigation and two Judicial Reviews, challenging the legal basis for the development. With councillors apparently powerless, or disinterested, health campaigners have turned to lawyers for help.
The London law firm Leigh Day has threatened legal action against the council unless it puts its plans on hold. Further developments are expected this week. An Early Day Motion in Parliament, proposed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, also seeks to delay the introduction of Accountable Care structures and has so far attracted the support of 153 MPs.
Meanwhile other “partners” involved in the Accountable Care System, the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust, the Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group and the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust are all said to be “well behind” in their preparations for the 1st April deadline.
“We’re nowhere near ready,” one official told Cornwall Reports. “We’re far too busy dealing with the Care Quality Commission and trying to agree new ways of working that will help us improve our services to patients. Frankly, the last thing we need right now is a new set of bosses at County Hall.”