Wyre Forest Labour today reveals the huge row that’s developed over the last 2 years between Worcestershire NHS Health & Care Trust, and Tory Controlled Worcestershire County Council over the Ludlow Road closure. This, in a week that the Tory council plays the worst kind of politics with the families and lives of severely disabled children, by putting back a decision on the service until after the May council elections.
Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour said “The Tories at County Hall are engaging in what is a contemptuous and politically motivated move by putting back its decision on Ludlow Road, and so creating yet more stress and anxiety for the families. It seems they are fearful of a voter backlash that the closure of Ludlow Road will have on its vote before May’s council elections. And so they should be, local people expressed their support for the disabled children and their families in their thousands. The council should be taking note of that and keeping it open, not playing cynical political mind games with voters in the hope they can win votes and yet still quietly try and close Ludlow Road once the elections are out of the way.”
Stephen Brown continued. “It gets worse, because the FOI I’ve requested to get to the truth on this reveals the warnings the NHS gave to the Tory Council going back 2 years about the negative impact of closing Ludlow Road. What’s abundantly clear is the breakdown in the relationship between the NHS and Council over this, with the council even making threats against the NHS that it will find other providers if the NHS fails to work ‘collaboratively’ with it. The council also said it aims to ‘reduce dependency on specialist provision’. This, in a nutshell, confirms early on that the council totally failed to understand the complex medical needs of the disabled children. It views them as engaging in some kind of scrounger dependency culture rather than being medically dependent and it being part of the council’s statutory duty to provide care. It compares disabled children to those who’ve made some kind of lifestyle choice. Frankly, it’s appalling heartlessness and you have to question whether some of these people are fit for public office, especially when allied to the political ‘decision’ to delay a decision until after the elections. Nevertheless, this is unprecedented stuff, dynamite in fact. The NHS has even criticised the consultation saying it could lead to a Judicial Review. This is exactly what the Labour Party, supporting the campaigners, have been saying. The Council, in putting its pursuit of austerity and privatisation ahead of everything else, has lost sight of its duty of care to our most vulnerable citizens. It’s a scandal. We’ve seen it in Children’s Services, and now sadly it’s being replicated again here. For these Tories, finding money for repairing Pot holes has a higher priority than the most vulnerable or disabled children in its care. That shows you where they’re coming from. Well, where we’re coming from is supporting the parents group to the hilt. We’ll push the Tory Council all the way on this one.”
Wyre Forest Labour FOI reveals the following key issues:
15th March 2016: NHS to WCC - NHS state “We are very concerned about the way this has been approached and resultant consequences for children with complex and often life limiting conditions.” NHS Letter also refers to correspondence in August 2015 about removal of ring fenced monies, concerns about the impact on the children, and need to follow appropriate process. NHS also asks how can it work ‘collaboratively’ if WCC is withdrawing entire budget?
30th March 2016: WCC to NHS - confirms no resources for service 2018/2019 and redesign in 2017. States aim is “promoting wellbeing and independence reducing demand and dependency on specialist provision”. Sum required to be saved is £540,285. Also states Council threat that it will put contract out to “competitive tender” if collaboration with NHS fails.
13th April 2017: NHS to WCC - NHS warns council again about the need for “adequate consultation.”
19th February 2018: (Official NHS consultation response) NHS to WCC - NHS states “concerned that a proposal which ceases provision at the unit is being considered ahead of the work that needs to be undertaken to assess whether this is a viable option or not.”
Letter critical of WCC view on OFSTED considerations being factored in by WCC when the unit is NHS owned, and so nothing to do with WCC.
(Labour comment - this can be seen as an attempt by WCC to lay it on thick to achieve an end result the Tories want rather than have a truly impartial needs based review).
Letter refers to “complex and exceptional needs” of the children, and that it’s a nursing lead unit and the children will require “appropriate staff competencies”. NHS critical of plans at Osborne Court (potential alternative site) by re-designating “emergency beds” as “routine beds” and what impact this could have on emergency admissions; eg it’s a flawed consultation premise if decision making on any of the alternatives available is done on this basis. Letter concludes that it’s not clear how the needs of the disabled children will be met and so they can’t comment on suitability of alternatives, and questions whether WCC will meet the terms of Equality Act, and that a Judicial Review (legal challenge against any decision) is “likely”.
(Labour comment - overall it’s clear the NHS view the consultation process as flawed, that it lacks critical thinking about process and alternatives available, and is not putting the needs of the disabled children at the centre of the changes).