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Getting the message
Monday’s Salisbury Hospital AGM at the Arts Centre was predictably crowded – not surprisingly, given the degree of public anxiety about the future of the NHS now that the Health Act has become law.
Luke March, the Foundation Trust’s urbane chairman, spelled out the changes and challenges now faced by virtually every hospital in the country. Next April, the familiar Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities will be replaced by doctor-led Clinical Commissioning Groups responsible for huge budgets. How will that work in practice (no pun intended)? We don’t know.
But he stressed that there will be fierce competition from private consortia able to pick and choose the services they offer, and able to undercut NHS costs. And he warned that this is coming at a time when hospital budgets are being cut, and yet they are required to do more for less money.
And then there is the South- West Consortium of 20 hospitals – dubbed a cartel by its opponents – examining whether it is possible (or desirable) to replace national with regional agreements on pay and conditions. So, given the presence of demonstrators outside and the large number inside the hall, it was the anxiety felt by staff about pay that dominated the questions. Peter Hill, the interim CEO, was repeatedly asked about what was happening, and repeatedly assured the audience that nothing had been decided, and that staff would be fully consulted about any proposals.
Anyone who’s attended public meetings of the Hospital Board or the Council of Governors will know that all the concerns voiced (the effect on staff morale and patient care, the dangers of losing staff to nearby hospitals not in the consortium and so on) have been discussed at length. Everyone understands the risks.
Monday’s meeting didn’t resolve anything. But the message from the audience came over loud and clear: we have a great hospital and we want to keep it that way. Ok, doing nothing isn’t an option. But before any final decisions are taken there must be the widest possible consultation.
- Wiltshire Police, also in cost-cutting mode, is apparently toying with the idea of closing the old divisional headquarters in Wilton Road and effectively running everything from Melksham. Can I suggest an alternative? How about North Wiltshire police amalgamating with Avon, and South Wiltshire with Hampshire Constabulary? Anyone got any thoughts?