Countdown to Cornwall’s “Kennally Care” as National Health Service approaches its end of days
30th December 2017
By Graham Smith
Two of the six councillors tasked with recommending the future of Cornwall’s health service have said they have been reassured the controversial new Accountable Care System will not lead to wholesale privatisation.
Councillor Andy Virr (Conservative) and councillor Colin Martin (Liberal Democrat) said they welcomed answers given by NHS England at the first of their Inquiry Panel hearings. Mr Virr is chairman of the Inquiry Panel and Mr Martin, another panel member, is also vice chair of the Health & Adult Social Care scrutiny committee.
The radical, and highly controversial, new way of delivering healthcare in Cornwall is due to come into effect from 1stApril – with the six-member panel of local councillors tasked with making recommendations within the next few weeks.
Cornwall Council will take over from the local Clinical Commissioning Group, NHS Kernow. The main health providers , the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust and the Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust will be merged to form a new Accountable Care System (ACS.)
Although healthcare will still be free at the point of delivery, at least in the short-term, critics fear the ACS heralds the death of the National Health Service in what will be its 70th year. Cornwall will have its own fixed-term, place-based budget – with no answers to what will happen when the money runs out.
The ACS will initially operate in “shadow” form, with each organisation maintaining its existing responsibilities, for 12 months – although the new structure will operate “as if” it was already a statutory organisation. The target date for the formal incorporation of the ACS is 1st April 2019.
But patients west of the River Tamar will immediately find that traditional responsibilities for commissioning healthcare will have moved outside of the NHS as NHS Kernow becomes directly answerable to Cornwall Council. There has been no public consultation and two separate campaigns are looking to Judicial Review to have the changes ruled illegal.
The Single Commissioner at the top of the new structure will be the council’s chief executive, Kate Kennally, whose name has become synonymous with taking over the NHS in Cornwall ever since she replaced NHS England’s Joyce Redfearn as chair of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan just over 12 months ago. It just one year, Ms Kennally has left no-one in any doubt about her ambition to add the £700 million NHS Kernow budget to her portfolio.
Health campaigners also fear the new structure will become easy prey for privatisation.
The six-member council Inquiry Panel is due to hold only its second meeting on 10th January. The panel’s final meeting is scheduled for 31st January.
Among the questions yet to be heard are:
- Where is the NHS Kernow Strategic Estates Plan, which identifies which community health facilities are to be closed and sold?
- Where is the council’s Risk Assessment, answering fears about financial durability, minimum standards and privatisation?
- Why are none of the witnesses called to give evidence to the Inquiry Panel drawn from the growing ranks of anti-ACS campaigners, which now include several highly respected academics such as professors Allyson Pollock and Stephen Hawking?
- Many NHS patients in the North and East of Cornwall look to North Devon and Plymouth and their status, within Cornwall’s “Kennally Care” remains unclear.
Cornwall Council’s Liberal Democrat-led cabinet is due to vote in favour of embracing the ACS on 7th February, although a growing number of councillors now expect the final decision to be taken by a vote of the full council – with the Conservatives, who form the largest political party, ensuring that the government-backed idea gets the go ahead.