Democracy in Bude: Local People fighting for our Hospital and Young People striking for all our futures.
Opinion piece following events from last week by the Chair of Bude Labour Party (as ever, opinion pieces are open to all to submit):
There were two important democratic events in Bude last week: one was about saving our NHS, and frustrating, and the other was about saving the planet, and immensely inspiring.
Local People Ask Difficult Questions and Fight for Stratton MIU
First: the frustration.
Thursday 14th February, saw a packed meeting of an Extraordinary Public Meeting of the Bude Community Network called to explain and discuss, the nighttime closure of Stratton Minor Injuries Unit, the ultimate result of which was the realisation that ‘temporary’ closure could move from months to years, to permanent.
Bude and Stratton Labour has already written in ‘Bude and Beyond’ about the austerity agenda that is behind both the national shortage in NHS staff and the resultant cuts to our local services (all of which can be placed at the door of our government), and much of this was confirmed by Tamsyn Anderson (Director of Board of Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust) when she referred to recruitment and workforce ‘challenges’. Unfortunately, she went on to undermine the existence of nighttime provision by questioning the demand for the MIU and suggesting the closure was actually an ‘opportunity’. After the multiple references to this ‘opportunity’, she had to be reminded by the audience that this was not an opportunity, but a cut.
The panel seemed to be taken aback when, after suggesting that phoning for an ambulance was a viable alternative to nighttime provision, they were met with cynical laughter from the vast bulk of the 130+ strong audience. There appeared to be some casting about for ideas from the audience, and a variety of practical suggestions to solving the staffing issue such as employing a nighttime security guard; having a nurse “on call”; providing key-worker accommodation; broadening adverts to target former NHS staff, and collaborating with Devon were greeted as though none of these ideas had occurred to them, and the panel expressed interest in exploring them. We rather suspected that their previous approach had been limited to justifying the closure, and convincing local people that they didn’t really need the service.
The panel acknowledged that Bude was in a particularly isolated position, given the long distances and travel times to the nearest alternative hospitals, but their main focus of investment seemed to be on ambulances rather than considering upgrading Stratton’s status to that of an Urgent Care Centre (UCC). Unfortunately, one member of the panel stated that a UGC would not provide value for money.
In other words, it would be too expensive to provide this area with the same level of cover as most of the rest of Cornwall. The NHS was set up to provide treatment according to need, not according to what is cheapest. Has this principle been changed since Cornwall Council became involved with decisions about healthcare?
Despite acknowledging that Bude would be building an additional 1200 houses in the next ten years, the message was that this ‘temporary’ closure would continue until three new staff were recruited, and that process could take months, or years or re-opening might never happen. Instead, increased ambulance use and mobile-phone apps were offered.
Bude/Stratton and the Surrounding Areas Labour Party is deeply sympathetic to the pressures felt by our NHS workforce, and we understand the vandalism inflicted upon the whole health system by the 2012 Health & Social Care Act brought in by the Conservative/Lib Dem Coalition government that has crippled investment in local services and recruitment of staff. But we are deeply concerned that the circumstances of this closure will be seen as an ‘opportunity’ to cut services under the guise of ‘clever’ ways of working.
The mood in the hall was quite clear, the panel was left in no doubt of the feelings of local people. We know this is a cut to a service that is already not fit for the needs of our 11 parishes. That Stratton Minor Injuries Unit should be returned to 24-hour opening and then upgraded to a UCC. This would mean people with emergency conditions would not be putting pressure on A&E departments far away, and a UCC would also meet the real needs of local people and provide better career opportunities for staff.
We in Labour call on our Bude area Cornwall Councilors to form a vocal group to advocate in Council for these approaches, and not to be distracted by any ‘opportunities’ that are proposed.
Bude Young People Striking for Us All
And now to the inspirational.
On Friday 15th February, many Budehaven students joined with tens of thousands of Young people across the country in a strike to highlight the environmental crisis faced by humanity, something that will be experienced head-on by their generation and is the result of previous generations’ failures to take significant action to curb climate change. They were eloquent in presenting their own reasons and arguments for this to local media, but we in Labour would like to express our support their cause.
Our Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Rebecca Long-Bailey, personally expressed her solidarity and promoted their key demands of:
- The Government declare a climate emergency and prioritise the protection of life on earth, taking active steps to achieve climate justice.
- The national curriculum is reformed to address the ecological crisis as an educational priority.
- The Government communicate the severity of the ecological crisis and the necessity to act now to the general public.
- The Government recognise that young people have the biggest stake in our future, by incorporating youth views into policy making and bringing the voting age down to 16.
Our Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, also said, ‘Climate change is the greatest threat that we all face, but it is the school kids of today whose futures are most on the line. They are right to feel let down by the generation before them, and it’s inspiring to see them making their voice heard.’
Unfortunately, Theresa May and our current Conservative government sought only to criticise young people and call such action a waste of time, showing that they just do not get it.
If all generations are to come together to fight the potential extinction of humanity and destruction of our planet’s eco-system, we need a government willing to make the bold interventions that will make profound changes to our society; a government that will use all our resources to fight climate change and not make it worse. In our opinion, Labour will be that government.