Friday, 25 May 2018

No room at the dentists inn - unless you pay

We already have a reduced A&E service at Chorley hospital. Rationing of healthcare seems to be flavour of the day, including dentistry! 

{My Story}
Today I had a look online to check the availability of NHS dentists in the local area. My spouse and I called in a local dentist & asked if we might register as  NHS patients. What happened next was shocking....

"we're not accepting any new NHS customers, only private", said the receptionist. I noted the word 'customer' then looked round noting the large waiting room was empty. So I said "but the place is empty, are you saying there are places available but only to private patients?"

The receptionist replied "yes, but there are reasonable plans available for example £55.00 for a first 45 minute consultation with any further payments made monthly".
The pre-rehearsed line about financial costs seemed to roll off the receptionists tongue as if by rote. 
I noted the receptionist shifting in the chair as if anticipating what I was about to say. Rather than debate the blatant discrimination of turning away those NHS 'customers' who can't afford to pay (twice) I simply said...

"We do pay. We pay into a collective system for dentistry called the National Health Service. It's a system where everyone supports each other in times of need. It's a system that does not discriminate or turn people away who, for whatever reason, cannot afford to pay".

"If I was to pay privately, I'd be going against the principles of a universal healthcare system I love. I'd be pushing out other NHS 'patients' resulting in this dentist treating only those who can pay privately. It would no longer be 'taking on NHS customers".

So as you can see folks, I had no means to pay as a private 'customer', and for this reason only, I was refused treatment and shown the door.

When we got home I decided to look again at the website of the dentist I'd just visited. But this time a little closer, and one sentence stood out highlighting the hypocracy of my experience. The sentence was...

"our practice caters for all"

Ironically, the dentist is called {My Dentist} on Dole Lane, Chorley.

The  {My Dentist} website then shows a list of NHS treatments and costs, with a band 3 crown costing the NHS 'customer' £256.50.

Our NHS is the best, safest and most affordable healthcare system in the advanced world. Yet slowly but surely it is being eroded and converted into a private payment system where those who can pay will, and those who can't are either shown the door, asked to setup a payment plan, or go without.

Related Links

Half of NHS dental practices are not accepting new adult NHS patients

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Healthwatch CumbriaShire and the fading patient voice

Healthwatch contract mergers, is this the end of the patient voice?

As of the 1st May 2018, the Healthwatch Lancashire contract will be delivered by the Cumbria-based People First Independent Advocacy PLC.

Ironically, Healthwatch Lancashire, the so-called 'public voice' for Health & Social Care in Lancashire, have just been appointed a new chief executive 'David Blacklock' who was previously the chief executive of the very same...People First Independent Advocacy based in Cumbria.

One imagines this is some sort of transformation or integration of contracts and all those other buzz words used these days. But the appointment to the Lancashire Healthwatch of the Cumbria based advocacy company boss doesn't appear to be just 'coincidence'?

Company house also shows the new C.E. for HW Lancashire was also appointed as the People First Independent Advocacy company secretary last July (2017).  [1]

The Cumbria-based advocacy service which includes other business elements now has the contract for what happens with the peoples voice on health care services in Lancashire.

Over the years, the local opinions and voices of local people has gradually been distanced with several mergers of patient forums into larger unaccountable organisations.

Here's an extract from the book NHS for Sale: Myths, Lies & Deception.....

The patient voice was strongest when represented by Community Health Councils (CHCs). CHCs could and did visit and report on local NHS services, organise local campaigns and hold NHS bureaucrats to account. They were abolished by Alan Milburn in 2003, and replaced by a succession of weak bodies culminating in Healthwatch, established by the Health & Social Care Act. 

Real patient voice has become politically inconvenient as more NHS ‘reforms’ have been pushed through against the wishes of the public.
The proliferation of local NHS campaigns and action groups is an indication of the fact that many people feel that legitimate avenues of enquiry and complaint have been closed to them, leaving little option but to take to the streets in order to be heard.

Public bodies such as Healthwatch Lancashire have come under fire as playing little or no role in defending any of the threatened hospitals and services, and which few people even know exist. 

The People’s Inquiry concluded that Healthwatch in its current form is unlikely to deliver an effective voice for local communities, and recommended that they be wound up, with new bodies established that should be separated from the CQC and modelled on the old CHCs. 

They should link up with local community organisations, pensioners groups and other community organisations, and be given the statutory powers to inspect hospital and community services, to object to changes which lack public acceptance, and to force a decision on contested changes from the Secretary of State. 

The invisibility and impotence of Healthwatch is rivalled by many of the Health & Wellbeing Boards (HWBs), which were also established under the HSC Act. However HWBs are not NHS bodies, but controlled locally by councils with social service responsibilities. The unusual flexibility of the phrasing of the Act gives council extensive discretion on how public and outward-going the HWBs should be. 

There is the possibility to make them campaigning platforms, or a way to hold local health managers to account. But so far not one council has taken the chance to co-opt campaigners, community leaders and advocates of patient groups, and create HWBs as a vibrant, proactive public forum for scrutiny of local NHS commissioners or providers. 

The London People’s inquiry again recommended a substantial change, calling on councils to ‘make underachieving and narrow Health & Wellbeing Boards into genuine platforms for the planning and scrutiny of public health, health and social care in each borough’. 

It suggested that one way forward might even be to merge HWBs with Healthwatch, to create a single, clear and authoritative, democratic voice for local people that will monitor and scrutinise local health and social care services and plans for future developments, but also champion patient complaints.

Meanwhile, Healthwatch Lancashire has remained publicly silent on all the cuts, privatisation, integration and NHS devolution that's going on at the moment, and remains so far below the radar that very few people have ever heard of our `independent consumer champion in health and social care'...

Healthwatch should be independent of all health care providers so it can scrutinise them if it needs to? This could now be a bit tricky. The contract is now held by a PLC which opens all sorts of commercial opportunities, including with local authorities.
Instead of scrutinising proposed NHS reforms campaigners call Slash, Trash and Privatise plans (STPs), Healthwatch Lancashire appear to be promoting them. Hosting several public events involving STP leaders over the last 12 months.

With Cumbria now holding the contract for peoples voices in Lancashire, it's only a matter of time before we have a single contract for Healthwatch England, whereupon all campaigners of patient voice may as well pack up their bags and emigrate...