Your Letters

We know it’s a financial decision

Letter of the Week: Dave Coates, Flockton

Dear Sir,

I fully endorse the sentiments expressed by Wendy Senior

(The Press August 2), and yet as much as Stephen Eames and Simon Reevell attempt to gather grapes from thorns, the downgrading of Dewsbury District Hospital has nothing whatsoever to do with offering “better care for the people of North Kirklees.”

It’s all “financially motivated” as Dr Thimmegowda correctly points out – and it’s all to do with the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), the privatisation of our NHS and the ConDem government cuts to our health care.

PFI was the inspiration of the Tories and subsequently guzzled by Blair, Brown, Cameron and Clegg.

Between 1997 and 2007 New Labour signed up to 85 PFI contracts, and a further 41 schemes were planned over a contract period of 30 to 60 years.

The ‘capital value’ of these PFI schemes was £15.5 billion, yet the total amount of money to be repaid by NHS trusts almost doubled from around £50 billion in 2005/6 to more than £90 billion by 2013/14.

This mammoth sum is what the British taxpayer, and its NHS owes to private companies and their shareholders on the existing PFI contracts.

Pinderfields, Pontefract and Calderdale Hospitals are all PFI projects, and in an attempt to save money hospital trusts and CCGs are cutting the number of beds, and making staff redundant, to stop them from going bankrupt.

Although it’s not only the NHS which has PFI contracts. Construction giant Skanska (a Swedish company) and Innisfree (the largest investor in PFI NHS schemes) also has 18 education projects, comprising 260 schools with a capital cost of £1.5 billion.

Innisfree and its shareholders are also making huge profits from the defence industry, with capital costs of £2.9 billion, and it’s us the taxpayer who is forking out. However that’s just the tip of the iceberg as the ConDems have inflicted £20 billion of cuts to the NHS over four years.

NHS England has warned that the NHS will face a funding gap of £30 billion by 2020, while the BMJ has shown that one in six hospitals have introduced new private treatment options this year.

So Messrs Eames and Reevell can try as hard as they like to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but those of us campaigning against privatisation of our NHS know full well what’s going on – it’s scandalous.

Volunteers are leading the way

From: Maureen Scatchard, Batley

Dear Sir,

Aren’t Wendy Senior and all the other UNPAID campaigners for Dewsbury Hospital impressive?

They are a shining beacon of hope pitted against – let’s be fair – those who are doing exactly what they are paid to do!

It’s the public who will suffer

From: Ann Jones, Heckmondwike

Dear Sir,

Re: Dewsbury Hospital. Well, the writing is definitely on the wall; children’s/ICU/HDU/coronary care/maternity plus A&E – all to go!

What will be left? Nothing but outpatients’ clinics, a walk–in centre and elderly medicine.

Dewsbury will be one big cottage hospital which, inevitably, leads to closure.

I think those people, GPs and MPs who are in favour of all these changes should hang their heads in shame.

All our local MPs, so yellow–bellied they can’t speak out for the people who voted them in.

People who don’t want this change, and want our local hospital to remain in Dewsbury – not Pinderfields.

Pinderfields is run by Balfour Beattie, not the trust. If Dewsbury is broken up it will be lost.

I urge the people who have got the petition with thousands of signatures to send it to send it to the Health Secretary.

Steven Eames is a local man, so he should know the area Dewsbury serves.

Who is he kidding, lives will be lost!

Yes, people who have had strokes or heart attacks are treated at other hospitals in the district.

However, they are taken to Dewsbury A&E for assessment and given initial treatment before sending on for further treatment, if needed, and then transported back to Dewsbury or Pinderfields for aftercare, before being discharged.

This won’t be the case if Dewsbury A&E closes. Lives will be lost; is no–one listening?

When all these services are gone they’re gone, and Mr Eames will walk away with a big fat cheque; it is the general public who suffers.

So come on everyone. Write to your MP.

An accident waiting to happen

From: Jack Bunn, Hanging Heaton

Dear Sir,

It is my considered opinion that the above is bound to happen in High Street Street, Hanging Heaton.

Over the years, letters and complaints have been sent to the police, councillors and Kirklees Highways, even at one time a protest with a photo of schoolchildren, parents and residents appeared in the local newspaper.

They all received the same end product – nothing.

High Street from the WMC down to the junction of Commonside is a 60– or 70–miles–an–hour stretch.

There are no 30mph signs amongst the mass of signs we call street furniture.

The traffic bumps are in the wrong places.

The Challenge Way was designed to send HGVs down into Batley but, owing to the crossroads at Shaw Cross being dangerous, with massive queues and accidents, the High Street is being used as a rat run.

Myself and my neighbours are just about fed up, and no–one in authority cares.

I understand Kirklees has spent a large sum of money buying a vehicle to monitor traffic outside school gates.

At home time we could do with another to deal with speeding traffic down High Street.

I am a retired HGV driver, and have experience of these type of roads, and am trying to be public spirited and bring to the authorities’ attention what they should know – this traffic is not 9am–4pm, it is 24 hours a day!

Toilet situation is a disgrace

From: Pat Crisp, Cross Bank, Batley

Dear Sir,

We are sorry to have to point out to Coun O’Neill that you have contradicted Coun Lowe by saying people were allowed to use the toilet in the Town Hall.

Only a few weeks ago Coun Lowe made a statement saying you could only use the facilities at the Town Hall and the Library at the discretion of the people that work there.

That means if they don’t like the look of you, you can’t use them.

We were amazed at the large amount of men who have signed our petition forms who had medical issues and had been turned away from these places.

They also said it was time you councillors came back and worked in Batley instead of Huddersfield, so you could see what happening on the streets of Batley.

Station change is so unfair

From: Richard T Brompton, Mirfield

Dear Sir,

On August 5 Metro moved the free town bus to stand 15 at Dewsbury Bus Station, which means that if you are disabled, like me, or old and infirm you have to walk the full length of the station to catch the Longstaff bus home or the other way round.

For the last two years I’ve been asking Metro to put some seats next to the stand 17 door for us to wait on, but never had a reply.

Also people smoke outside the entrances and the smoke blows in and fills the station sometimes, they don’t seem to have a solution for that either.

These are two good reasons why Dewsbury is dying and people shop elsewhere.

Care gap is unacceptable

From Safiq Ali Patel, via email

Dear Sir,

I write this week to express alarm and concern at support services for people with serious health issues who live and are cared for in the community.

Despite benefits being in place, the money received by seriously disabled people is inadequate for covering full-time care needs.

If a carer provides daily help for a person who has lost use of arms and legs the care bill for 24–hour care and support comes in £6,720 per month at £10 per hour for a qualified care assistant. The cost of care is higher if a fully-trained nurse is employed.

The maximum allowed in benefits is around £1,250 including severe disablement premiums.

After the purchase of food, home energy and other vital resources the total benefits allowed buys about a tenth of the care needed.

Kirklees Direct payments offer a pittance to the most needy in payments, sometimes awarding as little as only £60 per month to a person with round-the-clock nursing and support needs.

As a result of this tight policy people with enduring disabilities who cannot perform day-to-day tasks safely are finding themselves injured or burnt while cooking or failing to eat meals routinely because they can not afford to pay a qualified person to assist.

Many disabled people end up malnourished as a result and too many live with their health conditions deteriorating beyond what is acceptable.

To add to the misery there are no healthy reliable meals on wheels services available to many sufferers.

I wonder if in this era of cuts, where care needs assessors cause more neglect and harm, there will be a voice of sanity somewhere that lifts care provision and care finance to where they should be.

I again remind the cold-hearted decision makers that they are violating the human rights of the disabled and a lot needs to be done to develop care and safety for those who have serious care and nursing needs while living in the community.

I hope for those with daily care needs that staff quality, co–ordination, service delivery and financing will improve against the tide of some existing care providers and care financers who make living with serious health complaints tougher than it needs to be.

Thanks for Minster celebration!

From: Bill Robinson, ‘a local Yorkshireman’

Dear Sir,

Once again it would be unthoughtful not to say a big thank you to the Rev Kevin Partington and his team of volunteers for making Yorkshire Day special.

There were so many things happening, including a visit from the Mayor and the Dewsbury Town Crier and the showing of a film of bygone days, including scenes from a local mill, Wormald and Walkers, from the Yorkshire Archives.

There were numerous stalls and games outdoors for children and the Minster Refectory was also kept busy.

The day was concluded with a a wonderful evening entitled ‘E Bah Gum’ and included local artists and a visit from Ian Clayton, an author and gifted speaker who gave a wonderful reflection on growing up in a local mining area.

The evening concluded with a fine display of organ playing by the Minster’s resident organist and the singing of On Ilkla Moor Baht‘At and She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain When She Comes with local additions and raucous flag–waving by the audience.

If there was one volunteer to pick out for special praise it would be Kevin’s wife, who has been been on crutches for several months but worked tirelessly and cheerfully from start to finish.

Dewsbury District Hospital had its own 9/11 disaster...

Press reader Lionel Conyers, of Mirfield, has written to us setting out his views on the state of affairs surrounding Dewsbury District Hospital. Here we print his letter in full as we believe his opinions are worth sharing...

Dear Sir,

On September 11 2001 when tragic events were unfolding across the Atlantic, another tragedy was unfolding in Dewsbury. Not as dramatic, perhaps! Not as newsworthy, certainly. But a tragedy nonetheless.

The board of the Dewsbury & District Hospital NHS Trust, with the senior personnel of the trust and the senior movers and shakers from the regional health authority, were gathered to hear that it was to be merged with Pinderfields and Pontefract hospitals to form a new SuperTrust to be led by Lord Lofthouse (of Wakefield)!

Ostensibly, the reasons were to do with Dewsbury’s inability to attract senior clinical personnel because of its size and thus it couldn’t compete to provide the best medical care.

Of course, this was complete bunkum; the trust had a massive reputation, punching well above its weight for its size because it had an excellent team led by the chairman, John Hemingway and its chief executive, Roger French. With the support of their excellent clinical and executive staff and the right attitude, they had modernised and developed the hospital and its site into an efficient, friendly and effective unit that shone as an example of what could be done with a smaller General Acute Hospital, if done correctly, and without PFI!

Conversely, Pinderfields was a financial ‘basket–case’ with a very mixed reputation as far as service was concerned. Its buildings and its site were decrepit.

Simon Reevell should review the history of this initial tragedy because ‘experts’ told us one thing when the real reason was swept under the carpet. History could well be repeating itself. Perhaps we should learn from it.

Dewsbury’s finances were not perfect but they were streets ahead of Wakefield, where for years there had been ever–increasing deficits.

As is likely with current events, the whole issue was about ‘money’ and the clinical outcomes were secondary, despite the rhetoric to the contrary. Gradually Dewsbury hospital has become tired–looking due to lack of investment; that said, the staff are still brilliant, loyal and dedicated despite being treated as second–class by their masters in Wakefield.

Back in 2001, with typical government department thinking, it was thought that a combined unit covering a vast area would be more efficient if administered centrally; fair enough! – seems logical.

But it would be special if a new ‘super’ hospital was built where the central administration was to be. In other words – they attempted to spend their way out of trouble (sound familiar?) and get nice shiny new offices into the bargain and ended up with three hospitals in financial trouble rather than just the one.

Needless to say, the new Mid Yorkshire Trust has suffered financial problems since its inception and various scapegoats have been sacrificed along the way in the form, amongst others, of chairs and chief executives, including the redoubtable Roger French.

The present wrangle is likely not about Government cuts (though any restrictions may exacerbate the problem) it’s almost certainly about financial management past and present.

The poor performance of the SuperTrust is probably manifesting itself in departmental and staffing cuts because the Mid Yorkshire Trust is not financially sustainable due to its commitment to PFI contracts; that’s a ‘money’ problem, not a clinical one.

It’s not about service quality due to increased clinical excellence being at a premium; it’s about it costing more to provide the quantity of emergency and other services that can be quickly and effectively brought to bear in the shortest possible time for the largest number of people.

Making people travel further for treatment does not achieve the latter objective, rather the reverse.

‘So what!’ if it costs more; why not divert some of the fat profits away from the PFI suppliers/ financers into services? Contracts? Perhaps a re–negotiation is called for?

Bluntly, if the increased expertise and facility is going to improve and save life, how many are going to suffer and die because they have had to travel further and longer?

What’s the betting that the statistics don’t count those that never get to hospital – especially the ones who try to get there independently.

Again, a central location will be perceived as being more cost-effective; of course this will be a advertised as a ‘side–effect’ of improved clinical efficiency. Pigs might fly!

The issue, unfortunately, has become something of a political football.

This is a pity! There is genuine concern form the general public.

What is required is marshalled arguments with substance.

These do not want diluting with political rhetoric or trivialising with petty squabbles about expenses (however well–justified and well–meaning).

If meeting dates and locations have been organised, Mugabe-style, to deter opposition attendance then let’s list the instances.

If the rhetoric is civil service ‘speak’ then let’s clarify it or challenge its meaning.

If the real issue is ‘finance’ then let’s expose it.

If there are statistics to support the proposed downgrade let’s challenge those too; have they been drawn up independently, by whom, with what criteria?

Where do they fall down? Has anyone got all this information in one place?

Have they justified their criticism or support of it? Have they collated it into a comprehensive challenging document that sticks to the facts and expounds simple, solid arguments? Is there sufficient evidence for a legal challenge?

If the arguments aren’t solid and if there is no solidarity and inter–connection in their presentation, then the opposition will fail.

And we will have a continuing tragedy where the hero ultimately dies!

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