Parliamentary Sketch – No holidays for the wicked then, eh?

Posted on: 26th July 2012

Parliament may have upped sticks for its school holiday, but the real world of policy making continues…

The critical question to the Transport Secretary about Cornwall’s intercity trains from Penzance last week was quickly followed by more meetings and representations. The tendering process has been delayed, which I hope shows that Ministers are having second thoughts about cutting our Penzance to London trains from 9 to 6.

I’m also intensifying pressure on Health Ministers to give Cornwall’s health service a fresh start next April by wiping the slate clean. The new Commissioning body (Kernow Clinical Commissioning), which will take over from the Primary Care Trust, continues to make good progress and the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust has passed important landmarks towards achieving Foundation Trust status next year.

Following the ultimately successful campaign three years ago to achieve ‘target’ funding which more fairly reflects the social and economic challenges of Cornwall, it has become more apparent that the Duchy continued to receive far less than the Government believes it should get (e.g. Cornwall received £56m less than the Government’s target in 2010/11). I have told Ministers that one way to compensate patients in Cornwall is to write off the legacy of debt still being carried forward by the Hospitals’ Trust.

If there’s any natural justice then the least the Government could do is to let Cornwall’s NHS go forward into its brave new world of yet another re-disorganisation with a clean slate. It would be wrong in these circumstances for any new NHS body to be saddled with debts which were significantly less than the amount by which Cornwall was underfunded over the last couple of decades.

Health systems in the wealthier south east have been overfunded by tens of £millions and will begin the new system debt free. Saddling the underfunded Cornish NHS with a legacy of debt will leave it more vulnerable to predatory private health companies keen to make rich pickings from the easier to provide services.

Last week’s Care Quality Commission (CQC) report into the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) showed how the current funding pressures are having an adverse impact on service delivery. Many patients comment on how over-stretched the Trust’s excellent and dedicated NHS staff are – especially nurses – and the CQC report confirms that staffing levels rather than standards are a significant issue. We deserve safe staffing levels on our wards and therefore need a decent funding settlement for the RCHT so they can afford to do just that.

Other than that, there’s trying to goad a painfully risk-averse civil service to get on and make a final decision about Government support for the excellent and exciting Goonhilly Space Science Park project, discouraging witch hunts on Scilly and trying to put wind into the sails of the creditable efforts of Penzance Town Council to secure much needed redevelopment of the Harbour for the improvement of the Ferry service, and much more.

No holidays for the wicked then,eh?


23rd July 2012