Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Speech on HRI debate by Green Party Leader Councillor Andrew Cooper - Extraordinary Council Meeting 16/3/16

The bottom line on the proposals to close A&E and acute services at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary is that they are deeply flawed and that the Joint CCGs need to end the Consultation, go back to the drawing board and start again.
That is in many ways the easy part. The hard part is going to be how do they finance the sort of Health Service local people deserve? We know about the bad PFI deal and we could spend many happy hours deciding which Government is to blame for that one but it is not the only financial factor in this sorry saga. We have an NHS in crisis. The contract being forced on Junior Doctors is one issue another is that GP practices like the University Health Centre and Slaithwaite Health Centre are under threat due to cuts resulting from a new funding formula. Against this is the backdrop of a £30 Billion national shortfall in NHS funding identified prior to the last General Election but left unaddressed. We also have the ongoing privatisation of the NHS where private health companies are allowed to cherry pick juicy parts of it using public money for private profit and with many millions of pounds of public money being spent simply monitoring private contracts. The Private Sector should only have a very limited & well regulated role in the NHS. The NHS Reinstatement Bill recently put before Parliament would ensure a publicly funded, publicly delivered NHS not just the narrow ‘free at the point of use’ one we have at the moment. It’s a pity that MPs from one Party sought to filibuster it out of Parliamentary Time, last Friday, and another sent only a pitiful 15 MPs to support it. The guilty parties know who they are but  will remain unnamed on this occasion.
This brings us to the role of central Government. They responded to the on line Parliamentary petition to save A&E at Huddersfield with the following. They said,  "It is a matter for local determination" and "it is right that these decisions are led by local clinicians, who best understand the healthcare needs of their local populations ". This response fails to recognise that Government sets the rules and is the ultimate provider of NHS funding. Government makes the funding environment within which local decisions are made. Successive Governments have set the rules and now this one wants to say it is a local decision. What I do find very strange is that Prime Minister David Cameron felt able to go to the Calderdale Royal Hospital in April last year, before the election and guaranteed that A & E services would remain there. I am pleased that A& E will remain in Halifax but what makes that issue one that the Prime Minister felt he could comment on and yet the decision at Huddersfield A&E is a "matter for local determination"?
The best possible tactic now (as well as putting pressure on local NHS decision makers) is for those of us who want to maintain Accident and Emergency and other Acute Services at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary to keep knocking at the Government’s door and to make them take responsibility. They are the key to coming to a satisfactory resolution to this crisis. They have the power, they have the funding and it is our responsibility to ensure that they do not evade their responsibilities. So yes Local Kirklees Party Leaders and campaigners need to meet Government Ministers but I do wonder that if at some point thousands of us from Huddersfield are going to need to go down to Westminster for a Mass Rally  to make our voices heard before this all over. That is one for HandsoffHRI Campaign Team to ponder I think.
So let’s be united. Let’s work together. Let’s get behind the people of Huddersfield in this vital campaign. They are after all the Leaders in this fight. Hands off HRI!

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