Coming your way: £3.8 billion to spend on public health

Norman Lamb: off the cuff and off piste at Localis  Pic courtesy of The Guardian

Norman Lamb: off the cuff and off piste at Localis
Pic courtesy of The Guardian

In the middle of the biggest wave of austerity to hit England since the 1930s a cool £3.8 billion will be handed over to your local town hall and local NHS from 2015. The aim will be to switch money from your big hospital to your local community to spend on public health and social care.
Do you trust your local council to spend it wisely? Who will know what it has been spent on? and it will it unleash clever new ideas as promised to help local people?
This was a point of a press conference yesterday by the rather arcane titled think tank,Localis,to publish a report asking precisely that. Read it here.
It was launched by a Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb, who began well by throwing his boring Whitehall brief on the floor and launching a passionate off the cuff speech calling for new ideas to stimulate local public health services.
As he was off piste, he refreshingly condemned those private companies exploiting lowly paid care workers, some even on below minimum wage rates,or zero hour contracts, and not being paid for travel between seeing different customers. He might have added that they should join a good union like Unite or GMB to take up their plight, but then he is a Liberal Democrat.
What is interesting about this initiative is that it might do some good. It means more freedom and money for local people to find ways to help the elderly, disabled, the local alcoholics and drug takers and if combined with better housing, transport, planning, job creation and children’s services it might make a difference.
But it is a big IF and it is clear from the Localis report that people have to be made accountable for how this money is spent and that has not been properly worked out. As the brilliant local government expert Tony Travers put it, that you know better who to complain about the dustbins than you do over public health. And he did not get a satisfactory answer from the minister.
In Berkhamsted as a previous blog pointed out we already have the makings of this at Gossoms End, a NHS community hospital with a GP surgery, a nursery, physio and local sheltered housing attached to get good local care. The minister said that the people of Great Yarmouth and Yeovil are also soon to benefit from new community schemes.
In the meantime an invitation to see Gossoms End is still there, Norman. That is if you can get your bossy civil servants to give you any space in your diary. And they may lynch you for throwing away their boring prepared speech.

Loving care at Gossoms End: An unsung NHS success story

The view of Gossoms End garden from the terrace of the dining room. A good NHS facility

The view of Gossoms End garden from the terrace of the dining room. A good NHS facility

The  NHS is taking a beating from the press and media at the moment – just at the point  Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, wants to open it up to the private sector. Here is a rather heart warming story of why it is still very good. Not everybody is being neglected by uncaring nurses and health professionals.

The entrance to Gossoms End Community Hospital.| Pic courtesy: NHS Herts

The entrance to Gossoms End Community Hospital.| Pic courtesy: NHS Herts

Unless you live in the Chilterns town of Berkhamsted you probably will never have heard of Gossoms  End Community Hospital named after an ancient hamlet adjoining the town.

This unsung place is providing excellent physiotherapy for my wife, Margaret, who is recovering from a stroke after a rather dramatic rescue by air ambulance from the Isles of Scilly – see my earlier blog  at David Hencke.

What is particularly good is that some one has properly planned this facility so that stroke victims and people recovering from serious injuries can get proper physiotherapy and nursing care in a decent environment. The hospital unlike Watford, the main accident and emergency hospital for West Herts, is under no pressure to throw people out at the earliest opportunity. The cost of running it is much less than using a ward in acute hospital.

But the real key is that this is a nurse and physiotherapy led unit – with a weekly visit from a consultant and a doctor on call. The result is that the driving force  behind the care is to find the most suitable  rehab treatment for the individual patient.

Also if there is an emergency – my wife was discovered to have two new blood clots on her lungs – the patient can be taken for urgent medical care at Watford General Hospital. In her case suspicions by the doctor at Gossoms End led her to being scanned and then treated at Watford and she was able to go back to Gossoms End for  rehab after five days.

There are other human qualities. It is small – just 20 beds – some patients like my wife have their own room.The food is home cooked on the premises, there is a cheery dining room overlooking a small park. There is a terrace and gardens outside. It also does out-patient physiotherapy,  has a GP surgery attached and is surrounded by sheltered housing. Even two private retirement developments are now located near this hospital. My sister-in-law , who is a community nurse, was so impressed that she thought it might be a private facility. But it is not. Indeed it has just had a £200,000 refurbishment ( see http://www.hertfordshire.nhs.uk/news-and-events/press-releases/2010-press-releases/208-refurbishment-at-gossoms-end-complete.html).

Berkhamsted is extremely lucky to have this facility. From what I can see there are other such places – but no national directory of how many there are. It seems this provision is very hit and miss.

Yet at the same time the coalition and Labour are supposed to be planning major changes to help Britain’s elderly population by concentrating funds to keep them fit and healthy and provide proper support. I challenge  Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat minister responsible for social care, and Andy Burnham, Labour ‘s shadow health secretary, to visit Gossoms End and see how the unsung part of the NHS is working. They need to listen, learn and then act. So far the pair of them are ignoring my emails.Perhaps the minister and the opposition health spokesman aren’t bovvered.

My receovering wife, Margaret; my daughter, anne, and grandchildren Tegan, Leon,Ryan and Daryan on the terrace at Gossoms End

My recovering wife, Margaret; my daughter, Anne, and grandchildren Tegan, Leon,Ryan and Daryan on the terrace at Gossoms End

PS Many thanks to all those who sent Margaret get  well cards, messages of support and  have taken the time to come and visit her. You  have all been very kind and caring.