Around 80 people attended a politically charged Save Our NHS Leicestershire (SONHSL) public meeting on Saturday April 6 to discuss the planned reorganisation of Leicester’s hospitals.
Speaking at the meeting was Mark Wightman, the Director of Communications and Strategy for the local NHS Hospital Trust and Dr Sally Ruane, a local health policy academic and NHS campaigner.
But the speakers were not the main attraction at this event. For nearly an hour, we heard story after moving story about the audience’s experiences of being let down by inadequate community services which, we heard, had been subject to devastating cuts.
SONHSL is concerned that the Trust’s plans do not include an increase in the number of beds, even though local hospitals currently face a crisis because of lack of capacity. The Trust states that reconfigured hospital facilities will have 2,048 beds. In May 2018, it had 2,045 beds – so there will be no real increase at all!
With an ageing population and expanding need, this amounts to a real-terms cut.
The Trust believes an expansion in community services and different pathways of care will offset rising need for hospital care. But the underfunding of the NHS means that services in the community do not function properly and this is exacerbated by cuts in social care.
We were told that the idea is to move funding from hospitals to community services – but this is robbing Peter to pay Paul. We believe that all of our services should be properly funded and we should have enough services to care for those who need health care.
Only last week, the Leicester Mercury carried a front-page article about a 94-year-old Leicester resident, Reg, who was shoved from hospital to home, and back to hospital again 13 times in the last ten weeks of his life, apparently in an effort to free up beds in acute hospitals. At one point, Reg was discharged with no care plan in place, and his family say they were not informed until they rang to check how he was! 52 hours later, Reg was back in the A&E with suspected pneumonia.
The audience at the meeting was clear: the crisis in the NHS has already put an unbearable strain on families. A number of speakers described how they had been forced to subsist on a meagre carers’ allowance and become full-time carers for their loved ones. One such carer at the event, accompanied by his partner who suffers from MS, spoke about how he had contemplated committing suicide because of their situation.
In summing up, the Trust’s spokesperson was forced to admit that the biggest risk in the Trust’s current plans is that community services would not be able to make up for a standstill in the number of beds.
SONHSL, and groups like it across the country, are fighting for an NHS that is fit for purpose. We are fighting to expose inadequacies in the plans of the local Trust and to build a movement capable of forcing more money from this government.
To get involved with SONHSL, contact email@example.com