Tory chief should be pressing his government
Letter of the Week: Peter Claydon, Dewsbury
Councillor Robert Light, leader of the Conservatives on Kirklees Council, is right to point out, as was reported in last week’s Press, the perverse and financially damaging effects of PFI contracts on the delivery of health services in Kirklees.
The huge cost burden that PFI contracts have brought has clearly been a factor in prompting the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust and the Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation NHS Trust to push for the downgrading of A&E departments at Dewsbury and District Hospital and at the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
This leaves Kirklees, with its growing population both of young people and of the elderly, without a full service A&E facility.
Coun Light proposes, in response to what he describes as the “financial mismanagement” that is driving the downgrading of services, a greater sharing of resources between hospital trusts.
Whilst it makes sense for hospital trusts to be collaborating rather than competing with each other, this suggestion doesn’t address the fundamental problem, the excessively usurious terms of the PFI contracts imposed on the Mid Yorkshire and Calderdale and Huddersfield Trusts.
Perhaps Coun Light should be pressing his Conservative colleagues in the Government to establish a national NHS scheme to re-finance PFI contracts and at the same time inviting them to call a halt to the signing-off of any new PFI contracts in the health arena.
Ask your MP to go to debate
From: Christine Hyde, Dewsbury
I went to the Joint Kirklees and Calderdale Health Scrutiny Committee meeting on Monday February 22 about proposals to close Huddersfeld Royal Infirmary, because it seemed so similar to the 2013 Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust fiasco.
With experience I gained from 2013, I came to the following conclusions.
The law requires public money to be spent from the NHS budget to conduct an expensive consultation process.
The law requires the councils to spend a large amount of public money scrutinising the consultation content.
The law is disputed by campaigners, whose legal advice says scrutiny committees can stop the consultation process, and the council legal advice which says it can’t.
Any subsequent scrutiny committee referral is to the Independent Reconfiguation Panel chaired by a Conservative peer, which leads one to wonder, independent from what?
This will require additional expense from the NHS budget.
This would all be okay if Jeremy Hunt had not got his way with the amendment to the Care Act in which his ‘hospital closure clause’ trumps all considerations and the closure will go ahead.
The law rides roughshod over all health considerations. There is only one answer to all this, change the law.
Please ask your MP to attend the debate in the House on March 11 and vote for the private members’ bill second on the agenda, the NHS Reinstatement Bill.
They have the power!
Send a strong message
From: Adrian Cruden, Dewsbury
As we know from the closures and service reductions across the Mid-Yorkshire Hospital Trust, the NHS is under huge pressure from a combination of lack of trained staff and billions of pounds of private finance initiative debts accumulated under every Government since John Major.
PFI debts are particularly scandalous, given the payback from the taxpayer is as much as six times the value of the assets built by the private companies.
In our own local case, the debt has actually been sold on to a Channel Islands investment firm which didn’t even have anything to do with the construction of the black hole that is Pinderfields Hospital.
However, what many people don’t realise is under the 2012 Health & Social Care Act, all NHS services must be put out to tender.
As a result, although when you go to the hospital it may appear to be all-NHS, in fact more and more services are run by private firms including Boots, Specsavers, Virgin Healthcare and even Sainsbury’s.
This is leading to the fragmenting of services and higher costs to the taxpayer.
All these companies are siphoning growing amounts out for their own profit.
One estimate suggested that in 2014 this already took more than £5 billion out of patient care.
The Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has introduced a private members’ bill called the NHS Reinstatement Bill which, if passed, would end the tendering out of services and take them back into public hands.
It would abolish health trusts and centralise PFI debts for the national government to sort out, rather than leave local people having to bear the burden.
This would save huge amounts of taxpayers’ money and provide resources for better care and support to patients.
The bill is due to be debated on Friday March 11, a day when many MPs do not attend parliament.
I would encourage local people to contact our Labour MPs, Paula Sherriff and Jo Cox, and ask them please to make sure to attend and vote for Caroline Lucas’ bill.
Although put forward by the Green MP, it was supported by Jeremy Corbyn before he became Labour leader and by other prominent Labour MPs including John McDonnell and the late Michael Meacher and it has support from MPs from five different parties.
The bill may have relatively little chance of becoming law because the Tory Government is so keen to continue to auction out NHS services and hints at charging us for visiting doctors and hospitals.
However the more MPs that vote for it, the stronger the message will be that there is no room for profiteering in health care and the public want to save our NHS.
Best buildings sold off?
From: M Robertshaw, Birstall
Have we any historical buildings left to sell off?
The building inspectors we had quite a few years ago would not have allowed this to happen; they were very strict in their dealings with people, and would have made sure the people who are selling them had a right to do this.
Dewsbury was a lovely town then; Daisy Hill, Church Street and the shopping arcades were a pleasure to walk round, not the dump it is today, and not many people want to come here.
It’s to be hoped in many years in the future there are building inspectors like we used to have, or the Tower of London, the British Museum and the Albert Hall etc will disappear.
Some of us are past our ‘sell-by’ date, but we think we have had the best years.
From: Stephen Walker, Secretary, St Mary’s Social Club, Batley
Through your paper could I please thank the very talented local singing star and musician Jade Helliwell, who with her friends entertained us with their singing and guitar playing at an acoustic evening at St Mary’s Parochial Hall/Social Club, on Friday February 26.
This popular fundraising event, which was for a new church roof at St Mary's Church, Cross Bank, raised over £600.
Miss Helliwell not only performed on the night but organised the whole enjoyable event.
Great debate from our MPs
From: Jean Lorriman, Huddersfield Over Fifties Forum (HOFF)
I have watched the recording of the scheduled parliamentary debate on the proposed closure of A&E facilities at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
It was led by Jason McCartney, MP for Colne Valley, who was superb in putting the case for keeping Huddersfield’s A&E open.
He was backed up by the equally knowledgeable and very experienced Huddersfield MP, Barry Sheerman.
There was also measured yet emotive input from the Dewsbury and Batley MPs Paula Sherrif and Jo Cox.
How can the Kirklees population of nearly 450,000 fit into the Calderdale Hospital which caters for 200,000?
The maths don’t add up and l know that A&E staff at Halifax are rightly alarmed by the prospect!
There was also a recent ‘Black Alert’ at both Huddersfield & Halifax Royal Infirmaries, meaning they had to close for a while as they could not cope with further admissions.
Clearly Halifax A&E on its own will be unable to cope and there will therefore be continuous alerts.
Also adding to the four Kirklees MPs contributions was the Cheshire MP, Justin Madders.
He rightly congratulated all four on their eloquence, passion and knowledge but I was pleased to hear him make the important reference to the plight of a growing elderly population who will surely suffer most if these closures come about.
Ben Gummer, the Health Minister, contrasted badly with the four Kirklees MPs.
He waffled, shuffled and looked awkward and had to be told by the chairman to look into the camera.
A poor performance by a man who is a brilliant academic. He wrote a book on The Black Death. Bit ironic. Let’s hope his policies don’t lead to more modern versions!
We don’t need EU partners
From: David Walker, Liversedge
Re Jo Cox MP’s comments during the last week about our membership of the EU.
She said we were more secure thanks to the EU. Well, let me remind her and your readers of recent events.
In Madrid in March 2004 al-Qaeda bombed trains and instructed the Spanish government to withdraw their troops from Iraq or further terrorist attacks would follow. Their troops were brought home by the end of June.
German troops on duty in northern Afghanistan (the safest part of that country by the way) would not leave the safety of their armoured personnel carriers when on patrol and had to be back inside their secure bases before nightfall! Yes, perfectly true! They didn’t like the idea of facing the enemy in the dark.
Brussels, the ‘capital city of Europe’, last November went into lockdown, closed the whole of the subway system, shops, schools, offices, theatres and cinemas for several days and its citizens advised not to come into the city and to avoid all open spaces. All this after a terrorist attack in another country – France.
So there we are readers, we can all rest easy in our beds thanks to the brave governments of our partners in the EU. Thank god for the professionalism and bravery of our armed forces!
What an insult to them and our great country to suggest we need the help of the likes of our European partners. Shame on you, Jo Cox.