Thursday, 3 May 2007

What about these children Patricia?

In the House of Commons on the 24th of April this year a question was slipped to Patricia Hewitt that escaped the notice of the mainstream press:

Greg Mullholland (Leeds North West, Liberal Democrat)

"On 17 March we heard the devastating news that the proposed new children's and maternity hospital in Leeds would not go ahead, despite having been approved by the then Secretary of State for Health in July 2004. Why has the project been pulled despite leading local specialists having said on 27 March that current services are "not fit for purpose" and that they are anxious about the continuing safety of children in hospital? When will the people of Leeds get the children's and maternity hospital that they so badly need?"

The Secretary of State for Health's answer was typically lacking in relevant content. Tony Blair was even asked a similiar question recently in Prime Minister's questions. He also avoided giving an answer and simply waffled on about more staff and more investment under Labour. He also claimed that they were 'committed to that extra investment in the health service', it's just a shame this 'committment' is nothing more than hollow chatter up in Leeds.

This story originates from plans to build a new Children's hospital in Leeds as part of "Making Leeds Better" back in the nineties. The aim was to save money by investing in infrastructure to shift activities to the community, and to use these savings to build a new dedicated Children's hospital; the centralisation was designed specifically to improve 'patient safety'.

The Children's hospital promised by Labour has failed to materialise. This has left the children of Leeds exposed to unacceptable levels of danger; as with several major specialties split between the two sites there are significant problems with transferring extremely sick children, I quote a trustworthy insider source:

"We have had a number of near miss episodes where this approach gave significant risk. This was avoided in one case by the surgical team coming over for a patient who needed urgent surgery and who would have likely died had they been put in an ambulance. They were able to do this but only because they were not operating on the other site at the time."

There are certainly children suffering as a direct result of this, while much worse could well have taken place. The doctors think that the risks are most definitely at an unacceptable level, an eminent paediatric Professor states that children's lives are being put "at greater risk than we feel is appropriate". There are many in agreement over this issue.

As the predicted cost of the hospital soars, the controversy shows no signs of abating. I shall quote my insider again:

"The Trust Board met with the PCT and decided that although one of the main reasons for MLB was to generate money to build the new hospital, that instead it should be pocketed by the Trust to pay off it's debts. This decision was not released to the staff in the Trust or even to very senior medical & managerial staff, but was leaked to the press and published in last Friday's Yorkshire Post. The first most of us knew was on the following Monday, when the cat was well and truly out of the bag. This from a Trust that sent an e- mail to all staff about acceptable behaviour and being open and honest at all times."

It sounds pretty typical of an NHS culture that applies one code of conduct to frontline staff, while those at the top are seemingly free to behave as unethically as they so choose. This shocking example demonstrates very well how the enforced deficits are having devastating impacts upon real patients on the ground. These are deficits imposed by central government in a quite deliberate attempt to artificially expand private sector provision by running the NHS into the ground. Children are most likely dying as a result of the government's pursuit of a baseless ideology.

This is a government that makes cynical and corrupt decisions about NHS cuts that are only motivated by the desire to salvage a few votes here and there. This has been exposed by the media on more than one occassion. It is quite appalling that a government that claims it is making reconfiguration decisions purely based on clinical need is in fact ignoring clinical need to grab a few cheap votes. Another scary element to this reform is that hospitals with Foundation status can now have their board meetings in private, so much for open and transparent decisions then; more 'ash cash' behind closed doors then.

Recently Patricia Hewitt was approached by journalists on her way to a Children's 'Cancer Centre' and she nauseatingly avoided questions by suggesting the she was dealing with the far more important issue of children's cancer on that particular day. I would like to suggest to her that if she really had any genuine concern for children, or patients for that matter, then she would scrap these centrally imposed deficits that are running the NHS into the ground throughout the country. If she does not, then more children and adults will continue to pay the price for the government's game of 'ideological pursuit' with their lives. I will finish as my insider finished:

'The risk to patients will continue, Making Leeds Better is making me sick'

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