Today was a fateful day for the people of Stafford and Cannock fighting to save their hospitals. Monitor, backed by a rushed-through piece of Parliamentary legislation, declared Mid Staffs NHS Foundation Trust (MSFT) bankrupt and appointed an ‘independent’ team of “Trust special administrators” to take charge of the Trust until ‘a final decision is reached‘ about how their services are to be ‘reconfigured’ to solve ‘problems’ at the Trust that supposedly can’t be resolved except by breaking them up.
It just doesn’t add up..
The decision that the Trust is financially unsustainable is deeply suspect. I’ve already written about the fact that the Trust made a financial recovery plan that was agreed by both Monitor and the Dept of Health.
As a recently-released Trust document confirms, the Trust is £41,000 ahead of its ‘income vs expenditure’ target according to the 2012 plan. Not only this, but the Trust’s cash-holdings are a staggering £21,592,000 ahead of target – in spite of income being down by £4m (without question largely because of the damage done to its reputation by the misleading claims about its mortality rate).
A Trust ahead of its targets is not ‘unsustainable’, and the decision to put it into administration betrays all manner of hidden agendas that are bad news for everyone who cares about the NHS – in Stafford or elsewhere.
But that’s anything but the end of the perversity around the administration appointment.
Spot the difference?
Monitor, who announced its intention to put Mid Staffs into administration with suspicious haste just after the release of the Francis report, had appointed a CPT (Contingency Planning Team) to assess the viability of the Trust (even though it was ahead of its financial recovery plan that was meant to last until at least 2015).
This CPT concluded that the Trust was financially and clinically unsustainable. The financial lead on the CPT was accountancy firm Ernst and Young. The clinical lead on the team was Professor Hugh Mascie-Taylor, former medical director of the NHS Confederation. These would be the key players in the ‘financially and clinically unsustainable’ decision.
The ‘independent administrators’ just appointed by Monitor are meant to come in and take a fresh look at the situation in Stafford and Cannock, Or, as Monitor puts it,
The Trust Special Administrators now have 45 working days to design a way of providing services to patients in the area that is sustainable in the long term. The plan will then be subject to a public consultation..It is now the role of the Trust Special Administrators to work with the local community to decide the best way of delivering these services. There will be a full public consultation on any proposals for change.
In other words, the ‘independent’ administrators come in, look at the view taken by the CPT, and then “work with” local people to decide the best way forward.
Who is fulfilling this vital role?
Accountancy firm Ernst and Young, and clinical lead Professor Hugo Mascie-Taylor.
The very same financial and clinical leads on the CPT who decided that the Trust was financially and clinically unsustainable.
I don’t know about you, but if I appealed a court decision, I wouldn’t expect the decision of the judge in the first court to be reviewed by the same judge who made the decision – and if it was, I certainly wouldn’t think I was getting an ‘independent’ anything. If I had situation that foisted upon me, I would conclude (with absolute justification) that I was the victim of a ‘fit-up’.
Which is exactly what’s happening to the people of Stafford and Cannock.
All this is bad enough. But the most staggering thing about the whole situation is the incredible arrogance of a so-called ‘regulatory body’ that can’t even be bothered to make an effort to disguise its bias – and of a Health Minister who will happily rush through an order to put such an obvious injustice into place.
Perhaps they think people are too stupid to notice. Perhaps they hope that we’ll all be so distracted by the super-important issue of Thatcher’s funeral. Or perhaps they’re just so full of themselves that they don’t really care.
Under the NHS Constitution, the people of Cannock and Stafford have a firm, statutory right not just to be ‘consulted’ after the basic decisions are already made for them and handed down for them to ‘like or lump’. They have a right to be involved in any decisions that even might affect how their health services are delivered.
This right is being ignored – and we all need to support the people of Stafford in demanding their legal right not to have decisions forced on them with a pretence of ‘consultation’ by the ‘independent’ administrators who made the original decision.
Those who are fighting to save their services in Mid Staffs have a Facebook page. Please visit it and show your support.
They are also marching this Saturday, 20 April, to show how united and resolute their support for their hospital is. If you can manage to get there, please, please do. They are already expecting up to 40,000 to march come rain or shine. Wouldn’t it be great to make that 50,000, or 60,000. Or 100,000.
Wouldn’t that be a spectacle that would put the hideous, arrogant, pseudo-imperial pomp of Thatcher’s funeral in its proper place?