Stilettos and hatchets at the Civic Centre

Those who attended the Mansfield Healthcare Commission hearings at the Brent Civic Centre on 9 May were not searched for weapons on entry. However it came as a big surprise when Dr Hirst, a member of the Enquiry panel, described written evidence from 4 PPG Chairs and, separately, from Gaynor Lloyd and Keith Perrin as being like a stiletto and hatchet respectively being driven into the Shaping a Healthier Future project.

On the witness stand we had first Peter Latham and Robin Sharp, speaking to the evidence from 4 PPG Chairs and endorsed by BPV. Then Gaynor Lloyd and Keith Perrin did a husband and wife double act on their separate submission, focusing on the abandoned MSK procurement and the cardiology community clinic tendering process. Finally BPV member Ruth Bradshaw spoke about a case where misunderstandings about the services offered by an Urgent Care Centre may have contributed to an untimely patient death.

Counsel for the Enquiry and Panel members, Drs Stephen Hirst and John Lister, questioned us about the full range of issues covered in our submissions ,e.g the topics already mentioned, the A&E crisis at Northwick Park, the financial consequences of capping A&E fees, the original SaHF consultation process, the abolition of the EDEN Committee and asked for our thoughts on the way forward. Healthwatch Brent paid us a generous tribute and we were warmly commended by campaigners from other SaHF boroughs for our contributions.

Brent Council leader, Cllr Muhammed Butt, and Adults, Health and Wellbeing lead, Cllr Kupresh Hirani, told the Commission that Brent felt left out of ongoing SaHF planning and implementation on what was a vital project for Brent residents. They wanted communication to improve dramatically.

Rob Sale and Varsha Dodia, patient representatives from Harrow, voiced their concerns about poor community provision in parts of Harrow and the dire financial position of Harrow CCG. They made a strong plea for the local NHS to be frank and open about the issues.

This was all in the afternoon. In the morning Dr Mark Spencer, Medical Director of the SaHF programme, explained that progress on out of hospital initiatives, intended as the quid pro quo for hospital rationalisation and concentration, was a matter for which the 8 CCGs involved were answerable. He was unable to give key financial information on the overall project nor to indicate where the Implementation Business Plan had got to. From this we drew the conclusion that it has not yet been approved, three years into the initiative.

Professor Ursula Gallagher, who has recently moved to a post at the national Care Quality Commission (we congratulate her on that appointment), answered for the evidence which had been tabled by Dr Ethie Kong, Chair of the Brent CCG. She covered the demise of the EDEN Committee, the abandonment of Wave 2 procurement and the CCG monitoring of the A&E situation at Northwick Park.

Tina  Benson, Director of Operations at London North West Healthcare Trust, dealt with questions on A&E performance at Northwick Park , bed numbers currently and planned as well as the effect on the Trust of the removal of cardiology services following the Wave 1 tender.

The day as a whole served to demonstrate the degree of informed concern on the part of patients about the way Shaping a Healthier Future has unfolded so far. With over 1,800 pages of written evidence to digest the Healthcare Commission faces a big challenge. They said they hope to report before the end of July. Meanwhile we in BPV commend the four sponsoring local authorities for setting up this process.

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