The Kennally Care spin isn’t working, admit Cornwall’s council and health bosses – before rejecting support for the “basic principles of the National Health Service”
By Graham Smith
Cornwall’s health and council chiefs have accepted they are losing the battle for public opinion – but today (Thursday) resolved to press ahead with their creation of an Accountable Care System, putting the council’s chief executive Kate Kennally in overall charge of strategic commissioning.
A meeting of Cornwall’s Health and Wellbeing Board, which brings together many of the key managers, decided they had to do more to get their message across and allay what they recognised was “understandable public concern” that their restructuring of health and social care could fragment the NHS, lead to increased privatisation and the closure of community health facilities.
Several board members said they were concerned by the widespread suspicion and “unhappiness” surrounding the proposals.
But the council’s Liberal Democrat leader, Adam Paynter, blamed “fake news” and “scaremongering social media” for much of the public anxiety – before, and apparently without irony, declaring that he would vote against any form of words which confirmed support for the “basic principles of the National Health Service.”
“What are the basic principles?” he asked. “They mean 100 different things to different people.”
Officials explained that to most people, the NHS meant healthcare free at the point of delivery, funded by general taxation. But, they added, to others it now also embraced an internal market, and growing provision by private sector operators. “I went to the dentist yesterday and it certainly wasn’t free,” said Mr Paynter.
The board instead voted in favour of a renewed public relations offensive, supported by a declaration of support for a new system of healthcare which “does not fall below the NHS national standard.”
“We need to stop thinking about MIUs, and start thinking about services” – Jackie Pendleton
Labour councillor Cornelius Olivier had sought to find a form of words designed to calm protests. “In the context of the NHS, the word `devolution’ sounds alarm bells,” he said. “Are you trying to deviate? You have failed to get the message across. There has been a failure to communicate. It’s no good saying that `it’s all going frightfully well’ because it obviously isn’t.”
Earlier the board heard from members of the public, some of whom had travelled to Truro from Bude, concerned about the future of their local Minor Injury Unit. The Bude MIU is one of 10 available to Cornwall’s NHS 111 call handlers which is not listed for upgrading to an Urgent Treatment Centre, once the Accountable Care System becomes properly constituted. This is currently scheduled to happen in September, following its launch, in “shadow” form, on 1st April.
Jackie Pendleton, chief operating officer of NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, said localities like Bude and Launceston, and other parts of North Cornwall, would not be left without any minor injury service. “We are talking to partners in Devon about how services might be provided and we are also talking to GPs and other partners in primary care.
“We don’t know exactly what the service will look like at the moment because we are trying to insure that it is designed properly, in accordance with public consultation. We seem to have stirred up quite a hornets’ nest about Urgent Care.
“But we need to stop thinking about MIUs and start thinking instead about services. There will continue to be services. We are not saying it is UTC or nothing. But it has to be the service model which leads, and then the organisational structures which support that. It can’t be the other way round.”