Parliamentary sketch – Biggest challenge for local NHS

Posted on: 18th December 2012

Created in July 1948, the NHS looks forward to its 65th birthday whilst facing the biggest challenge in its history.  The previous Labour Government had set a demanding £20 billion “efficiency gain” by 2014, something not advanced by any other health system on the planet!  And the present Government has introduced the biggest reorganisation since it was created.

I was fortunate this week to secure a debate with a Health Minister on the challenges faced in Cornwall

Although I argued and voted against the Government and its Health Act we must face up to what the Government has done to make sure that (irrespective of the wisdom or otherwise of its policy) it does not end up undermining our vital local health services.

I am reassured that we have highly professional and dedicated clinicians already working hard to ensure that our local health services are the best they can be in the circumstances.  In 2013 the new service will be largely led by local GPs and they are well on the way to creating the new structures which will shape the way the NHS operates in Cornwall.

A big challenge is to ensure that the NHS effectively puts patients before profit.  The previous Government rolled out the red carpet for private health companies and gave them opportunities to profit their shareholders by delivering some of the less challenging elements of NHS work.

But Cornwall must make sure we get a fair slice of the cake.  Cornwall gets significantly less than the Government says we deserve (i.e. “allocation” less than “target”).  This Government should take account of Cornwall’s underfunding over years.  For example, between 2006 and 2012 Cornwall received over £200 million less than its “target”.  This year 61 primary care trusts receive £1.3 billion over their target, whilst 88 PCTs receive £1.3 billion below their target.  Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is one of them.

Added to this, Cornwall receives less money for each medical procedure (within the national “tariff”).  The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust receives the lowest payment of any Trust in the country.

RCHT inherited debt from troubles which originated in 2006/7.  It rose to £49 million by 2008/9.  Although repayments have reduced that to £22 million the new quasi independent “Foundation” Trust will inherit this debt when it takes over next year.

I will also raise the many other challenges which the local NHS faces, including: the consequences of the loss of the helicopter service to the Isles of Scilly; the important campaign which Sandra Cousins launched a year ago following the tragic death of her daughter, Mercedes Curnow, in which she has sought to highlight the need to strengthen the systems to detect and treat cervical cancer in younger women under the age of 25; the struggle with registered nurse to patient ratios on hospital wards; ensuring adequate levels of NHS dentistry and many other matters.

Cornwall’s NHS faces many challenges next year.  That’s why it’s important for the Government to understand that it won’t be easy and that we deserve more help and consideration than has been given.


Andrew George

MP for the West Cornwall &

Isles of Scilly constituency of St Ives

12th December 2012