Friday, June 08, 2007

Information or Propaganda?

I have just been reading the June copy of Heartbeat which is apparently the pulse of Sandwell, City and Rowley Regis Hospitals. The editorial team are certainly not short on hyperbole when it comes to reporting progress on Towards 2010 and the Interim Reconfiguration proposals. The story is only from one side, with no reference to opposition or indeed facts that inconveniently do not fit the party line.

Would staff have been interested in a few pertinent facts? I can think of a few examples: Such as how does the population affected by the Interim Reconfiguration relate to the population responding to the Shaping Hospital Services for the Future paper that sets out how services would change in the interim. Well only 15.6% of respondents were from the ethnic minorities, whereas the inpatient ethnic minority population at City from the Trust's own data on its website is running at 45.9%, a threefold difference! No comfort for the Trust here. The best way to have targeted these people would have been to consult them as patients on the wards, in outpatients, and in their general practitioner's surgeries. This did not happen.

Interpreters would have been needed and instead of talking about concentrating inpatient Children's services and Emergency Surgery services at Sandwell Hospital they should have explained that if they had needed to remain in hospital more than 24 hours they would face being moved by ambulance to Sandwell Hospital or elsewhere. I cannot visualise them lining up to say yes to that proposal!

How about one or two more consultation facts. When people were asked about whether they agreed with the proposed changes for surgery 47.2% said NO and 31.4% said YES. The NOs have it in spite of consulting the wrong population. Interestingly there were very similar figures for the proposed changes to children's services, 45.6% said NO and 29% said YES. Do you think it is just remotely possible that if they had consulted the right population even more would have said NO?

I looked very hard in Heartbeat to see if they had included a mention of the Birmingham City Council Health Scrutiny Committee decision on the Interim Reconfiguration plans, and the fact that the committee had referred the Emergency Surgery proposals to the Secretary of State and proposed that an Independent Reconfiguration Panel is convened. No that has not reached consciousness either, or if it has, it has been conveniently airbrushed away.

Heartbeat cannot claim to have the pulse of City Hospital until it accurately presents the facts whether they are palatable or unpalatable. I suspect an independently minded editorial team is needed. I would welcome the opportunity to write the front page for the July edition? Is anybody listening out there?

Finally I received another glossy brochure about Towards 2010. today. It presents an analysis of the public consultation, (I wonder how much this little lot has cost?) There were some additional papers entitled Public Consultation on the 2010 Proposals. There is a section "Service Transition" and it states and I quote "It has been a longstanding principle for the 2010 Partnership that the proposed new acute hospital needs to be almost the final element of the system to be put in place . This is based on the recognition that any other sequencing could mean that the new hospital was too small to cope with demand in the absence of the proposed community services."

Well what do you make of that? I am trying to get my mind around the timescales. Presumably the idea is that all the health centres, community facilities and community hospitals will be built and up and running by 2010 giving 3 years to build the new hospital so that it could be open by 2013??? Does this sound realistic? It sounds as if the money for the new hospital will be raised later, as you would not want to raise PFI money until you actually need to spend it. What happens if we cannot afford the last stage at all, or can only afford half a hospital??

Why not keep what we've got, ensure that the developments in the community go together with the new hospital build simultaneously, and work our socks off to achieve this as soon as possible?
I suspect people would feel that this a plan we could all get behind!

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