On Wednesday, 11th October at 7.30am, members of North Norfolk Labour Party joined campaigners from the North Norfolk Coalition Against the Cuts, the North Norfolk Trades Union Council and other NHS campaigners to protest against the sudden decision by the North Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to transfer all 18 beds at Benjamin Court hospital in Cromer to Norfolk County Council (NCC) control, to be run by NCC with social care staff.
This decision was taken at the very last minute, following a public consultation which offered very different proposals. At the CCG meeting on 26th September, the decision was agreed without any paperwork to provide detail, and we were told that the agreement would be reviewed after a year. Nursing staff have already been informed that their jobs at Benjamin Court will end and they will be offered redeployment.
These beds will no longer be able to offer medical care and will be used for ‘re-enablement’. So if NCC find that further budget cuts make this unsustainable, which is not unlikely, there will be 18 beds at Benjamin Court with neither medical nor social care staff. This looks like an opportunity to sell off the site in due course to a private provider – or indeed, property developer.
Meanwhile, we have a struggling East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) – the number of most urgent calls reached within the target of eight minutes was as low as 29% in the last year in north and south Norfolk (EDP, 10th October). On top of this, a private ambulance company which was providing some services has gone out of business, leaving the EEAST to pick up the pieces.
In Mental Health, patients are still being sent to the private Mundesley Hospital – which has been in special measures almost since it opened in 2016, and has recently been heavily criticised once again by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for poor and dangerous practice (NNN, 6th October). NHS mental health beds are being closed due to budget cuts, and yet patients are being sent at great expense to a failing private institution; from April 2016 to August 2017, 7,278 days were spent at Mundesley by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) patients.
We need to take very seriously the systematic running down of the NHS through budget cuts, and the creeping privatisation of essential provision. We are the fifth richest country in the world, and there is absolutely no excuse for not maintaining a first-class, properly funded, publicly owned NHS.