… for ending Cornwall Council ambition to take over the NHS
By Graham Smith
Two of Cornwall’s MPs have criticised Cornwall Council for dropping plans to create an Accountable Care System to replace the National Health Service.
All of Cornwall’s six MPs are Conservatives. The council is led by the Liberal Democrats. The MPs’ criticism follows the decision by NHS Kernow to seek closer integration with council services, but to stop short of creating a new organisation which would be led by County Hall.
The NHS Kernow clinical commissioning group board agreed on Tuesday to pursue what is known as “Option 2” rather than the council’s preferred “Option 6” – although the council’s cabinet last week tied itself in knots by insisting it was still committed to “Option 6” even though few of the essential ingredients remained.
Falmouth & Truro MP Sarah Newton, and St Austell & Newquay MP Steve Double, used their local newspaper columns to accuse the council of giving in to Cornwall’s Labour Party supporters who have been campaigning against an ACS because of fears it could eventually lead to greater privatisation of the NHS.
Mrs Newton said: “Clear evidence of this is the press release snuck out by Cornwall Council last week while the Duchy was dealing with the impact of the severe weather.
“The press release announced the decision of the cabinet not to take significant action to improve our health and care system in Cornwall. They have chosen not to take the common sense step of joining up and integrating our health and care services.
“They will not support the development of a local Accountable Care System, despite the support of the leaders of our local NHS and care services and despite the success of this type of approach in other parts of the country such as Manchester.
“Our whole health and care system in Cornwall is currently in “special measures” receiving additional help from NHS England to make the vital improvements we need to see. The past mistakes of Cornwall Council are well documented, poor social care commissioning, poor relationships with our local NHS and lack of integration of health and care services – all contributing to the current problems.
“The cabinet made one of the most important decisions that will effect every one of us – alone. Why did they not allow all our councillors a say? Why no debate in public for us all to see?
“The Scrutiny Panel of the Council has been leading an Inquiry into a proposed Accountable Care System. The councillors worked really hard with a wide range of health care professionals to inform their recommendations. Why is there (sic) work being ignored?
“Why? Because the Corbyn led, Momentum controlled Labour Party is running a nationwide scare campaign against the creation of local Accountable Care Systems. They falsely claim this will lead to the privatisation and Americanisation of our NHS.
“The Inquiry into the Cornwall ACS investigated these claims and found that they were not true. However, our Lib Dem council is running scared of making the changes that will improve services for local people because they are bowing to this pressure.
“The leaders of Cornwall Council have put politics before people. Along with my Conservative Cornwall councillors I urge them to rethink and enable the whole council a say.”
Steve Double, St Austell & Newquay MP, expressed similar sentiments in his local newspaper column: “In the midst of the blizzard conditions on Thursday night Cornwall Council sent out a bizarre email to councillors and stakeholders declaring that it had decided not to proceed with an Accountable Care System model as part of its work with Cornwall’s NHS, and apparently decided to do nothing instead.
“This is a crucial decision about the future of Health and Social Care in Cornwall and the pressing need to integrate the services in order to provide a better coordinated and more efficient approach to meeting the ever-growing needs of the people of Cornwall.
Sarah Newton and Steve Double
“This email was odd because Cornwall Council this year has dedicated considerable time and taxpayer money on holding an inquiry on whether it should proceed with a model like this, among several options, and Cornwall Council’s Liberal Democrat-led cabinet had been due to meet on 28 March to consider a formal decision on the outcome and recommendations of the Inquiry.
“To make a rushed decision like this was both against the council’s own procedures, as the cabinet had not actually met and voted one way or another, but also, to do nothing, which is what it appeared was what the council was deciding to do, was against the recommendations of both the NHS, Cornwall Council’s own Health Scrutiny Committee and the Inquiry Panel.
“This was bad enough, but on Friday, the cabinet member responsible, Cllr Rotchell sent out another press release apologising for the content and timing of the previous one, but still talking about ‘the cabinet’s position’, this despite the cabinet not having met yet to decide anything.
“A lot of people went into the weekend very confused about what Cornwall Council’s position on all of this was. Clearly ruling by press release does not seem to be working very well for the cabinet, and events also seem to bring up the old question about who really runs Cornwall Council, the officers or the councillors.
“The Conservative Group on Cornwall Council, whose Health Spokesperson, Fowey’s Andy Virr, is also the Chair of the ACS Inquiry Panel and a senior A&E Consultant at Treliske, was quick to flag up these apparent errors in procedure and put out his own firm statement against this chaotic cabinet on Friday afternoon.
“Cornwall Council’s Lib Dem Leader, Adam Paynter, wrote to Andy Virr on Monday saying the first press release had been ‘misinterpreted’ and that the cabinet still did want to integrate health and social care services. Again, it is unclear how this decision has been made as the cabinet has still yet to meet.
“So, after a busy end to last week and weekend where many of us have been clearing up after the snow and storms, the situation regarding Cornwall Council and its position on health and social care integration appears to be as clear as mud. One thing is clear though, and that is that no matter how bad the weather gets, that’s nothing compared to the unique brand of chaos that seems to be the rule at County Hall right now!
“If this matter was not so serious we could laugh this off as the Cornwall Council Cabinet having a bad week. However, this is one of the most important decisions facing Cornwall right now that will determine how our health and care services are run in the future.
“Doing nothing is not an option, however neither is making knee jerk reaction decisions or playing politics with our health and care provision. I hope now that the cabinet at Cornwall Council will work with the NHS and other agencies to make a fully informed and carefully considered decision that is in the best interest of the people they are elected to serve.”
All 123 members of Cornwall Council have been invited to a special briefing at County Hall on 21st March. The cabinet is still scheduled to meet, formally, on 28th March – but the original ambition to launch a new organisation, with a single, pooled budget, on 1st April, now appears remote.