A group of us went along to a public forum event put on by East Sussex Healthcare Trust (ESHT) last week which was nothing more than a PR exercise which left everyone uninformed. They said that they wanted to hear our views but they clearly weren’t impressed when we spoke. More worryingly when I spoke about my concerns regarding patient records being given to companies like 02 and Virgin I was villified by the rest of the audience. It shoked me how little others at the event knew about what is happening to our NHS. But it shocked me even more to realise how much they appeared to not want to know. Some seemed angry that I had even dared to suggest that patient data is just being given out to private corporations. The room erupted with shouts of fake news by the time I had finished speaking.
So what was this event all about? It was marketed as being about how the trust is transforming outpatients, and making discharge from hospital easier. They even gave out these pens with a ‘Let’s get you home’ message on. I suppose it sounds better than ‘Lets deny you treatment’ and we are all suckered by free pens aren’t we?
What we went into the event knowing was that with the establishment of Primary Care Networks, more and more GP practices are closing and large multi-speciality hubs will open. These hubs will serve many more patients than GP surgeries and will have all sorts of people lesser qualified than GPs to see you, who the GPs will simply be overseeing. One aim will be to cut 30m outpatient appointments in England over the year. When hospitals make savings by not giving you an outpatient appointment the hub that didn’t refer you wil be given a share of the savings. In other words the person you see at the hub is being offered a financial incentive to deny you care.
This public forum event started with people from the Trust telling us all how they are transforming outpatients to make the system fit for the future. They explained that 50% of elderly people feel worse after a hospital appointment simply because of the journey they had to make. I struggle to believe that 50% figure as it did seem a little condascending towards the elderly to say half of them will find a bus journey stressful. But what would be even more stressful is if they are denied care. And if our elderly really are so unable to travel why are we closing local GP surgeries and making people travel to larger hubs?
The whole presentation seemed like they were putting some fluffy wrapping on a bombshell. Tinkering around the edges to make something outrageously unacceptable slightly more palatable wtih a free pen chucked in for good measure. The truth is our NHS was fit for the future until they started making all these cuts and changes that they claim make it fit for the future. The basic structure our NHS was set up on we know gives us the most effcient and equitable means of delivering healthcare to the nation.
These changes our Trust is making are really coming from the top, from Matt Hancock and co who are desperately trying to emulate the American system with all its faults. These public forums are designed to make us feel we have a democratic voice in how our healthcare service is run but we don’t. What is the point of giving us a say when they don’t tell us the truth?
As for the patient data argument Dr Bob Gill’s film The Great NHS Heist describes data as: “being the new oil”. Money can be made from patient records and that is what our Government wants – to give their mates more chances to make more money. Our Trust has set up something called My Heallth Record which you can get on the new NHS app. They may say lovely things about how secure they have made all this but it’s a bit like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. The confidentiality of our medical records is really a thing of the past.