Conservatives reject proposed Inquiry into Emergency care crisis

Posted on: 28th February 2024

Conservative Councillors today rejected a proposed Inquiry into the serious crisis in Urgent and Emergency care in Cornwall. Health bosses admit at least 20 avoidable deaths occur in Cornwall every month caused by excessive ambulance queues and delays, and Cornwall’s chief coroner has raised serious concerns with the Health Secretary on at least 3 occasions in the last year.

Andrew George, who is a member of Cornwall’s Health Scrutiny Committee (HASCOSC), proposed at today’s committee that his fellow Councillors and he should undertake a short Inquiry as soon as possible with a view to making recommendations to improve the management and resourcing of relevant NHS services. However, this was flatly rejected by Conservative Councillors, after the Conservative Chair of the committee first attempted to avoid allowing Mr George’s proposal to be considered at all.

Andrew George said, “I’m a relatively new Councillor and have been astounded and disappointed to discover that scrutiny at the Council is a toothless, inept, sham. It operates in a Putinesque straitjacket. Today’s proceedings again expose that the scrutiny process is also open to the very worst kind of narrow party tribalism.

“If we don’t treat this appalling and extremely grave situation with the seriousness it deserves then the committee looks as irrelevant as it seems the Conservatives want it to be.

“If there isn’t a “Critical Incident”, Treliske often operates in an “Opel 4” position, with consistently over 99.5% bed occupancy. Elderly patients who need urgent attention can often wait where they fall for over a day before an ambulance arrives. Hundreds of avoidable deaths and avoidable life-limiting conditions are the consequence. Even our Coroner has protested to the Health Secretary in exasperation at the crisis.

“Our committee is always given warm reassurance by Health Managers employed by the government to put a positive gloss on everything, that the system is “just about to turn a corner” and that we shouldn’t worry. Only to be given the same message next time we look at it.

“The Conservatives voted down my attempt to hold an Inquiry last summer into the night closure of Penzance hospital’s Urgent Treatment Centre. If the UTC were operating 24/7 and with full medical, diagnostic and ambulance back-up we’d be a long way on the road to addressing these concerns.

“Conservatives should put patients and our communities’ best interests first and put their obsession with narrow tribalism and self-preservation aside.”

– ends –

Andrew proposed (and seconded by Cllr Loveday Jenkin) that:

1. This committee thanks and appreciates the work of frontline staff for managing emergency and urgent care services in such challenging circumstances;
2. Notes that the ICB’s “Winter Plan” appears so far not to have succeeded in meeting its declared targets; and
3. Will undertake a short Inquiry as soon as practicable into the current state of urgent and emergency care, to invite Acute trusts, the Ambulance Trust, Mental Health services, Cornwall’s Coroner, Adult Social Care services and frontline staff to submit evidence and ensure the Inquiry is informed by the evaluation of the Winter Plan which is expected to report to our committee’s informal meeting on 15th May and that the terms of the Inquiry be agreed at our committee’s formal meeting on 5th June.