Given the continuing crisis in the NHS which is caused by a toxic mix of £100 local cuts to the Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust (HEY), a £3 billion top down reorganisation that no one voted for, and a chronic lack of visible scrutiny from elected politicians right across the spectrum, Save Our NHS Hull and E. Yorkshire decided to take a road trip on a freezing January afternoon.
The destination for our four intrepid (isn’t that stretching it a bit, ed?) activists was the meeting of Yorkshire Ambulance Service Forum in Leeds.
So just what is the Forum? That’s a great question as by the time we left were more confused than ever.
Our reason for going to the Leeds meeting was first of all the testimony of patients and staff who approach us on a regular basis at our popular Street Stalls and demos. We heard stories of unacceptably long waits for ambulances, poor management strategies by YAS, cuts in the numbers of paramedics crewing vehicles at any one time, downgrading of code red (dire emergencies) by under qualified staff taking the calls, paramedics telling us of avoidable traumas caused by under/ inappropriate staffing and YAS’s de recognition of UNITE the Union and the GMB.
Naturally when you are standing about protesting about the Government’s mis management of the NHS you are going tom attract malcontents, both patients and staff. But the sheer weight of evidence from all stakeholders means there is something drastically wrong. When staff are telling us that they feel sick before going to work and we have a Cottingham GP publically saying, “This Government has run the NHS into the ground” following a rugby injury when a player with multiple fractures was left lying in field for over an hour, witnesses described him “turning blue” as his temperature dropped, then we can surmise that things aren’t what they should be.
At a time when there is increased demand for NHS and ambulance services, YAS is planning to save money by cutting the ambulance fleet by 10% and number of staff by 5%.
In addition the Daily Mirror reported that YAS is in the processing of becoming the first Trust to replace some paramedics with Emergency Care Assistants who receive just eight weeks training and are not allowed to even administer aspirin. In some cases ECA’s are paired up to crew an ambulance with NO paramedic being present.
Then there is the case that calls are being downgraded over the phone. Experience shows that in crisis people may present very differently. Perceived calmness can be a false indicator and there are those who are adamant about, “not bothering” the emergency services. This nuances are notoriously difficult to unpick over the phone, especially if the operator is mindful of the need to reduce code red situations and is feeling pressure that their decisions maybe open to question by under the cosh middle managers.
We assumed from reading the website: http://www.yas.nhs.uk/foundationtrust/c_Why_become_A_Member.html we naively assumed that the Forum’s purpose is to hold YAS managers to account, listen the views of service users and staff, and act as a “critical friend” to help improve things.
The site says that by being a trust member, “you will have the opportunity to get involved in the decisions we make and to influence the way in which we plan and develop our services. Members can work with us to inform us of the services our local communities would like us to deliver. Our Members work with us to represent the views of their local communities or groups, and tell us about their needs.”
Maybe the presence of two inspectors from the Care Quality Commission had some bearing on things but we heard some genuinely bizarre responses from Board members. A lay person “elected” to represent the public blamed the media, another one alcohol and a third quoted misuse of 999 by the public. The last issue has being going on since Moses wore short pants and surely the media is correct to scrutinise what is going on, especially as there is a vacuum of accountability left by politicians? The meeting was strongly chaired and there was no reflection on the current crisis.
Members were encouraged to, “be ambassadors for YAS” by availing of a new video and power point presentation to be used in their local areas. The production will cost £10,000.
The Management have made no effort to engage in any meaningful way with UNITE who are expressing the fears of their members and the public.
The Mirror quoted a YAS worker as saying, “People are going to die. The ECAs are scared because they are being put into situations they never thought they would have to deal with. They are being sent to all sorts of 999 calls. They also attended a high-priority 999 call, which they shouldn’t have. They requested back-up, but there was none available so they had to take the patient to hospital with no appropriate clinical assessment.”
Needless to say this staff member, along with the one we talked to is fearful of management reprisals and chose to remain anonymous.
We tabled a series of written questions around these issues and look forward to YAS’ reply which we will post on this site.
Meanwhile we will continue to support campaigns to ensure YAS is a safe service run with the interests of the patients and staff as the priority. Save our NHS opposes privatisation and will support YAS as the preferred provider if and when services are tendered out.
We call on YAS to recognise UNITE and the GMB and to enter into meaningful negotiations with staff regarding the safety issues out lined above.
Finally we call on all elected representatives to urgently seek a meeting with YAS to investigate the problems we have hi lighted.
We pay our MPs premier league wages, therefore we expect a premier league performance from them.
As regards accountability, there needs to be a major re think of how all this works with real scrutiny as a priority and an end to rubber stamping so that everyone has a real say and input into how NHS services are delivered.