Councillors’ plea to health bosses to ‘tell it like it is’

Healthcare crisis
Healthcare crisis

Councillors have issued a crisis plea to health bosses – please write in plainer English.

They diagnosed a deadly communication crisis as they met to scrutinise proposals for a major shake-up in the region’s health and care services.

Umbrella group Healthier Lancashire and Cumbria says the changes are to meet growing care demands, offset a predicted £572m shortfall in funding for regional health and care services by 2020/21 and improve services for everyone.

But frustrated councillors reprimanded health bosses, saying it was impossible to scrutinise something they could not understand.

Language used in the report includes: “Implement short-term high-impact secondary prevention measures to reduce demands on services.”

Coun Steve Holgate said: “You can’t have a proper conversation about an issue if nobody understands what it says.”

The Healthier Lancs team’s ambitions fell at the first hurdle last week when angry county councillors complained the organisation’s draft Sustainability and Transformation Plan for 2016-21 was impossible to understand.

The plan has already gone to NHS England for approval, prior to public consultation, but was criticised by councillors on Lancashire County Council’s health scrutiny committee.

After the meeting committee chairman Coun Steve Holgate said: “You can’t have a proper conversation about an issue if nobody understands what it says. The biggest concerns about the plan is there is no indication it can be funded effectively and there seems to be no time scales. Nobody is happy about the way the process has taken place so far.”

He added there were fears that plans to avoid ill health and create a wellness service were now being “driven by a need to balance budgets.”

Councillors also criticised health bosses for not having a clear timetable for the introduction of any changes to services or providing details of any cutbacks.

Coun Gina Dowding said: “There are going to be cuts for some services. We need to have the full facts.”

Samantha Nicol, director of Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria, told the meeting the draft plan had been written in line with central guidelines about the way the information should be presented and work had already started to make it more accessible to the public.

Afterwards she said: “We are already underway with translating this technical document into something people can easily understand and will allow them to be part of a meaningful conversation.

“We are currently working with groups of local people to test the language and presentation of these plans and will be sharing these in the coming weeks to encourage people to have their say on how we can work together to improve health outcomes and health and care services across Lancashire and South Cumbria.”

The intention is for radical changes to the health and care service to be developed and implemented over the next four years with councils and the NHS working much more closely together.

The report warns of catastrophe ahead unless the service is reorganised and the public recognise they and their communities must also take a key role in maintaining good health.

There are 1.7m patients registered with 226 GP practices in Lancashire and South Cumbria and there will be a major emphasis on preventing ill health, so hopefully easing pressures on hospitals.