2nd March 2018
By Graham Smith
Cornwall’s Conservatives have criticised the council’s decision to abandon plans for an Accountable Care System, accusing the Liberal Democrat-led cabinet of giving in to “far-left” protestors.
Councillor Andy Virr, Conservative health spokesman and chairman of the ACS Inquiry Panel, said he was dismayed that the cabinet had rejected his panel’s recommendations, which had been endorsed unanimously by the health scrutiny committee.
Cornwall Reports understands that the failure of officials to produce a coherent business plan, or risk assessment, was the main reason behind the Liberal Democrat/Independent cabinet decision to reject ACS proposals, and in particular the so-called “Option 6” call for a new structure.
Addressing the council’s health portfolio holder Rob Rotchell, Mr Virr said: “Please can I express my dismay that you have taken the poor decision to ignore the recommendation of the Health and Social Care Scrutiny’s Inquiry Panel and have elected NOT to integrate strategic health and social care commissioning in Cornwall.
“Your letter to health leaders gives the very clear impression that you have kowtowed to political pressure from far-left wing protesters, whose protestations were demonstrated to be unfounded during the 4 day inquiry. There was no evidence that the proposal would in any way lead to an increase in privatisation of healthcare in Cornwall.
“Furthermore, you have ignored the clear voice of health and social care leaders whom, with one voice, declared that doing nothing was the worst of all options. Your kind words regarding working together are, I’m afraid, vacuous without a commitment to integrate and combine budgets.
“The inquiry panel found that a new organisation was NOT required to deliver this and integration could be achieved through combined budgets and the use of existing joint health and social care budgets.
“It is disappointing that you have played politics with this decision, playing to the crowd over unfounded concerns and pointing to the government for additional funding (however welcome that may be).
Protestors campaigning against Accountable Care were a feature of the County Hall landscape during January
“Instead, you had the opportunity to demonstrate strong leadership and make the most of the funding available to Cornwall by putting health and social care leaders in the same room to make the best choices on how it should be spent for the benefit of patients and population across Cornwall.”
But health campaigners have welcomed the council’s decision. Some said they believed the threat of a legal challenge, involving London lawyers Leigh Day, helped focus the cabinet’s attention. Others felt that “people pressure” in the form of placard-waving protests had helped draw councillors’ attention to facts and opinions which the Inquiry Panel had ignored.
West Cornwall Healthwatch said it “applauds the decision of Cornwall Council not to press on with its plans to set up an ‘Integrated Strategic Commissioning’ body or Accountable Care System.
It added: “We support the principle of integrating health and social care, but believe that this should be developed through support for local initiatives to integrate services rather than yet another ‘top-down’ reorganisation.
“We need proper funding for healthcare and social care, investment in community beds, general practice, Minor Injuries Units and Urgent Treatment Centres, to name but a few; and we need the Council together with other commissioners and providers to work closely together in co-ordinating investment and services to benefit every resident in Cornwall.”
Additional reporting by Richard Whitehouse/BBC Local Democracy Reporting Service