People-power saves Glenfield Heart Unit!

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The decision by NHS England to drop their proposal to end surgery at the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre is very welcome.

This is a victory for common sense. Glenfield, as we always said, is a brilliant service popular with patients and families that achieves excellent outcomes.

But it is also a victory for people-power. Huge numbers of people helped fight to keep the centre open, with 130,000 signing a petition and thousands attending protests, marches and public meetings. Activists worked hard for the last 18 months or so building support.

The staff have stood firm and the Trust worked hard to build the case for keeping the centre. We have had support from a wide range of people: politicians, trade unionists, and a variety of campaigners.

Above all it shows that if we unite and fight we can overturn unjust proposals.

Speaking to Rob Sisson on BBC East Midlands Today, Steve Score, Chair of the campaign, said:

“Its absolutely brilliant. There is huge relief at this decision, and yes it is a celebration tonight that we have won. But we were prepared for it to be a protest. If they had decided to close it the battle wouldn’t have been over, but as it is we have already won and that is fantastic.”

Shirley Barnes, one of the main organisers of the campaign, was similarly jubilant:

“This campaign entailed a massive amount of work by hundreds of people. Everyone who got their family and friends to sign the petition, or complete a consultation paper, every shop, hairdresser, pub, restaurant that had petitions for us. Volunteers that collected at various events, organisations that gave us free stands at various events, festivals etc. And we could not have done it without the support of some of the unions.

“The campaign committee was a very very disparate group of people, parents, trade unionists, political activists etc, who would not have come together under any other circumstances, but who shared a great aim of saving a much-needed heart unit. And it was this working together and using all their different skills and abilities, that made this such a successful campaign. People-power at its best!”

On twitter Rob Sissons posted a further two interviews with Steve Score and Gill Smart from Heart Link. Steve explained:

“We are jubilant that we have won a victory today. NHS England have done a U-turn over their proposal to close the Glenfield Children’s Heart Centre, which is fantastic, and I think it is a result, above all, of people-power – of the thousands of people – who got together and fought to save the Centre, and it shows you can win.”

In a separate interview Gill Smart said:

“People-power is fantastic. Without the people behind us we wouldn’t have got this result, and I would like to thank everyone who took the time out to vote and do the marches and everything, because without their help we wouldn’t have achieved this outcome.”

The Save Glenfield has, in every sense, been a fantastic success!

But while our campaign was triumphant, the NHS remains under considerable threat from funding cuts, closures, and privatisation. It is for this reason that, earlier this year, the Save Glenfield campaign took the decision to affiliate to Health Campaigns Together.

Health Campaigns Together is a national organisation aimed at bringing together all health campaigns in common struggle: “to enable many of the campaigns that have been formed to liaise together, share experiences and lessons, and where possible work together on issues of common concern.”

And linking up with other campaigns was certainly a factor in our success. In the East Midlands, campaigns are currently raging over the attempted closure of a neuro-rehabilitation ward in Chatsworth and the removal of 24/7 service at an A&E in Grantham.

Throughout our battle to Save Glenfield we received messages of solidarity and ongoing support from these campaigns – a sentiment we returned by supporting their demonstrations and actions.

It is vital that this spirit of solidarity continues, even as our campaign comes to an end.

But there are also many issues still facing the people of Leicestershire.

One of the main issues that Health Campaigns Together currently has in its sights is the government’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). These plans will see the NHS’s budget slashed by as much as £22bn over the next five years!

In Leicestershire, this will mean, amongst other things, losing 243 acute care beds at Leicester General Hospital; the closure of St Mary’s birthing centre at Melton Mowbray and the loss of consultant led maternity services at Leicester General; the closure of Fielding Palmer Community Hospital in Lutterworth and Rutland Memorial Hospital in Oakham; and a halving of the number of beds provided at Hinckley and Bosworth Community Hospital. (For more info, see: https://www.dora.dmu.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/2086/13434/STPReport6Mar17.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y )

So even though the Glenfield campaign is over, it is critical that we make use of our valuable experiences of how campaigns can be won in the wider movement to save the NHS.

What the Glenfield campaign clearly demonstrates is that when people unite and fight back against unjust proposals, we can win!

 

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Analysis of all the public meetings on the future of Glenfield Heart Unit reveals a sham consultation!

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Photo by Lukasz Bemka

The national consultation on the future of Glenfield Children’s Heart Centre came to a close last week. Those able to attend one of the NHS England’s meetings will know what we mean when we say that the consultation was a sham, from start to finish.

But the majority were not even granted this courtesy, as we can reveal.

Throughout the five-month long consultation, there were 33 events held around the country. Not too bad – until you break down the details.

Of the 33 meetings, six were council-led. The public were not always allowed to ask questions at these meetings so these do not fall into the category of public consultation. Two were staff briefings – so also inaccessible to the public.

In total, NHS England carried out three Webinars. But as anyone who tried to use them will tell you, they were impossible to access – even for those with the internet

Of the remaining 22 meetings, nine were held on a week day and during work hours. An additional two were held from 5-7 – so for the majority of those in work they were also completely inaccessible.

So that is 22 out of 33 (two thirds) that the majority of the public could not attend and “consult”! Or, to put it differently, NHS England carried out just eleven meetings as part of a national public consultation!

Many of the meetings were announced with as little as nine-days notice.

To make things even worse, NHS England made very little effort to notify anyone about the meetings – they simply added it onto their web page. But who knew to go there to find out where and when the meetings would be? The majority of the public wouldn’t know that NHS England even had a web site, let alone check every day.

And what about those many who do not have access to the internet?

NHS England have proven beyond all doubt that they were not interested in carrying out a fully public consultation. We cannot let them off the hook.

We will do everything we can to continue to expose the flaws in the process. The consultation may be over but the campaign to save Glenfield is not.

Complaints can be sent to: england.congenitalheart@nhs.net

Local film-maker documents why we all love and need Glenfield Heart Unit

 

A short documentary exploring what it’s like to live with Congenital Heart Disease, and highlighting the brilliant work at Glenfield Children’s Heart Centre, has just been released.

The documentary comes at a critical stage in the campaign to stop the closure of Glenfield Children’s Heart Centre, with the end of the consultation just weeks away.

Ellie Kemp, the documentary maker, is a former patient at Glenfield Heart Unit. Asked why she made the documentary, Ellie said:

“I wanted to raise awareness – CHD is such a common birth defect, yet it’s so unheard of, and it affects so many lives.”

But NHS England’s controversial proposals to close the heart centre at Glenfield Hospital are also a part of the reason for Ellie making the documentary

Speaking about her personal experiences with the heart unit, Ellie said:

“If Glenfield had been closed when I had my open-heart surgery at 10 years old, then it definitely would’ve put a lot more pressure on my family – it’s scary enough having a child go through major heart surgery, let alone having to travel from Nottingham to Birmingham, or Nottingham to Manchester, when Glenfield is only a half an hour drive.

“Financially, having a child in hospital is extremely difficult, so adding in the extra travel, and potentially accommodation expenses, would be incredibly straining for families. However, this could be a reality for future heart patients if Glenfield was closed – which seems so unnecessary and so unfair, especially since Glenfield has such an amazing Heart Unit, which has helped to save so many lives.”

One of the recurrent themes of the documentary is the close relationships between staff and patients at Glenfield. Dr Mike Harris, a specialist in foetal diagnosis, described the unit as “like a family.”

Unsurprisingly, this is high on Ellie’s priorities.

“It’s also the Glenfield team themselves. Having been seen at Glenfield all my life, I’ve built up a strong relationship and a trust with the staff. Should I have to have any further surgeries at a later date, without Glenfield, I’d have to go to a new hospital, with a team who would be unfamiliar.”

The documentary is also highly critical of NHS England’s claim that Glenfield is not meeting the “standards”. Aidan Boulger, a consultant cardiologist at Glenfield and a stalwart of the campaign, was interviewed:

“NHS England have suggested that one measure of quality is the number of operations that we do. They seem to be confusing quality with the number of operations. The two things are completely different.”

Ellie echoed this sentiment:

“As for Glenfield not performing surgeries to a ‘high enough standard’ again – I was treated there, and I received an incredibly high standard of care, before, during and after my major open-heart surgery. I recovered well, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

The East Midlands only has one heart unit. We must make it clear to NHS England that no-one is going to take it away from us without a fight!

The Save Glenfield campaign is holding a public rally in Leicester City Centre on Saturday, 8 July, from 1pm: https://goo.gl/Z9ojJx And if you are interested in holding a public viewing of the film, please get in touch.

 


Ellie also asked that we post the following message of thanks:

“When researching for my documentary, Save Our Heart Unit Glenfield kindly shared a message on Facebook, asking for anyone who was willing to share their experiences with CHD and Glenfield Hospital. I received an overwhelming amount of responses – phone calls, e-mails, messages, all from people who wanted to share their stories, speaking highly of the care they received at Glenfield. I’d like to say thank you to all of those who shared their stories with me – I believe that this is testament to how many lives Glenfield has changed, and shows just how important Glenfield is.”

 

Save Glenfield: Complain to NHS England over their sham consultation

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As the consultation on the future of Glenfield Children’s Heart Centre draws to a close (ending on July 17), NHS England continue to avoid the public — the very people they are supposed to be consulting!

The Save Glenfield Heart Centre campaign encourages everyone possible to engage with the consultation (help can be found here: https://goo.gl/cGmdJN ).

But for those who have been excluded from the NHS England’s so-called “public” meetings, we hope that you will write letters/emails to NHS England, complaining about the farce that they call a public consultation.

The following is an email which was sent by a member of the Save Glenfield committee. We hope that it inspires you to do the same.

Complaints can be sent to: england.congenitalheart@nhs.net

Dear NHS England

I will be attending the meeting in Leicester on Saturday 1st July. I will be attending with my son who has CHD.

Can I register my extreme anger at the incredibly short notice given for this meeting.

We have been given just one week to advertise and make the public aware of this meeting.

I have felt from the beginning that NHSE are merely paying lip service to this public consultation, for a number of reasons. This feeling has been heavily reinforced by the so called public meetings.

The East Midlands is going to be the region most affected by the closure of the Glenfield, but the public meetings have been minimal, limited to ridiculously small numbers, at times when people cannot attend or arranged at such short notice that it is impossible to let those who would want to attend, know.

Please do not use purdah (the pre-election period in the UK, during which civil servants are not allowed to campaign) as an excuse.

You would have been aware, like everyone else, exactly when purdah ended. You had six weeks to arrange all these meetings which could then have been announced immediately when purdah ended.

At least then we would have had three weeks , rather than just the one week, to publicise the event.

I cannot see that how these can be described as public meetings if you seem to be going to such lengths to exclude the public.

Additionally, I think it is very duplicitous of you to describe the Leicestershire and Rutland Health Overview Scrutiny Committee meeting in Leicester next week as a public meeting.

It is not. It is a council meeting, arranged by the council, where NHSE has been asked to attend. The public can go in and may be allowed to ask questions/make statements, but it is by no means a ‘public’ meeting.

NHS England claim to be consulting on the future of Glenfield ❤ Unit. So why do they keep excluding the public?

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NHS England’s consultation on the future of Glenfield Children’s Heart Centre has been a sham, from beginning to end.

Many of us will remember their farcical “public” meeting held on 9 March, where a room with a capacity of 120 was booked for the whole of Leicester. This was just weeks after more than 2,000 people attended a protest to Save Glenfield in Leicester City centre.

Many were also excluded from the meeting because it was held midweek.

But despite coming under sustained criticism for the way in which they organised this and other meetings, NHS England continue to do the same.

In Sleaford, Lincolnshire, a public meeting was held yesterday (22nd) in the middle of a working day – at 1pm! The public was given just nine days notice for this meeting.

NHS England have also organised a Nottingham-based meeting planned for Thursday 30 June. Again the time of the meeting is 1.30pm – hardly useful for in-work parents. This time the public was given a more generous, but still insufficient, 17 days notice.

And today, it was revealed that NHS England have organised a Leicester Patient and Family event on 1 July. The meeting is on a Saturday, so will certainly be more accessible to the public. But the notice given to the public to come to this is just eight days!

All of this is unacceptable and raises questions as to whether NHS England is interested in carrying out a truly “public” consultation.

If you would like to complain to NHS England about these issues, please contact: england.congenitalheart@nhs.net.

Important diary dates for the campaign to #SaveGlenfield

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Now that the General Election is over, the campaign to save Glenfield Heart Unit is, like the weather, hotting-up. The East Midlands only has one heart unit and no-one is going to take it away from us without a fight.

With the aid of our campaign’s crib-sheet (which can be found online here), thousands of people have already contributed towards NHS England’s confusing online consultation process. It is important that as many people continue to engage with the consultation as possible.

But we also need feet on the ground (again) to make sure that NHS England see the faces of the thousands of people who oppose their attempted theft of our health services.

The following is a list of upcoming events at which we need maximum turn-out. Bring your friends, family and anyone you know who cares one ounce about the future of Glenfield Children’s Heart Centre.

Nottingham – Saturday 24 June, 2pm – the Heart Unit campaign have organised another public meeting in coordination with the Notts Trades Union Council. Come along if you want to find out what the official consultation is all about and how you can help participate in the process to save the heart unit (The Nottingham Mechanics, 3 North Sherwood St, NG14). https://www.facebook.com/events/114292552507394/?acontext=%7B%22ref%22%3A%223%22%2C%22ref_newsfeed_story_type%22%3A%22regular%22%2C%22feed_story_type%22%3A%2217%22%2C%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

Leicester – Tuesday 27 June, 5pm – officials from NHS England are in town to attend the “Leicestershire and Rutland Health Overview Scrutiny Committee” meeting. Therefore, we have organised a welcoming party to lobby NHS England as they arrive at this meeting (Leicester City Council building, 109-111 Charles Street, LE1 1FA). https://www.facebook.com/events/314927415628054/?context=create&previousaction=create&ref=5&page_id_source=1743079092623390&sid_create=59233081&action_history=%5B%7B%22surface%22%3A%22create_dialog%22%2C%22mechanism%22%3A%22page_create_dialog%22%2C%22extra_data%22%3A%5B%5D%7D%5D&has_source=1

Nottingham – Friday 30 June, 1.30 – 3.30pm. Nottingham Patient, Public, and Staff event. NHS England consultation event. The Wallace Rom, The Education and Conference Centre, Notts University Hospitals, City Hospital campus. To register for this event, email: ft@nuh.nhs.uk

Leicester – Saturday 8 July, 1pm – THIS IS THE BIG ONE. We have organised a mass protest in defence of Glenfield Heart Unit gather on Gallowtree Gate (outside of the old BHS) in Leicester City Centre at 1pm. LET’S MAKE IT REALLY MASSIVE. https://www.facebook.com/events/434176336955829/?acontext=%7B%22ref%22%3A%223%22%2C%22ref_newsfeed_story_type%22%3A%22regular%22%2C%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

Ask your MP whether they will campaign to Save Glenfield Heart Centre

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Following the recent general election, the campaign to save Glenfield children’s heart centre has put together a template letter which can be sent out to your new MPs to find out whether they and their party will commit to opposing the closure of Glenfield

Should we face another general election (not uncommon after such a close race), knowing which of our MPs and which parties support the campaign will be of great use to the campaign.

Please feel free to use or amend the text as you see fit, and please get back to us with any results.

 

Dear [insert name],

You will know that NHS England proposes to end surgery at the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre and that it is currently consulting on these proposals.

Our campaign has worked alongside the University Hospitals Leicester Trust, patients and their families, staff, trade unionists and many members of the public and other campaigners. We helped collect the 130,000 signatures on a parliamentary petition calling for a review into the decision.

We have also organised a number of public meetings and protests of up to 2,000 people and are currently encouraging people to participate in the consultation by NHS England.

I appreciate that your time is limited, but we think it will be a quick and easy job for you to reply to the following question:

What will you do to oppose the proposed ending of surgery at the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre at Glenfield Hospital?

If, after the consultation, NHS England decides to end these operations at Glenfield then local authority health scrutiny committees have the power to refer it to the Secretary of State for Health. This means that there would be ultimate political control over and responsibility for the decision.

Will you campaign for you party to not only oppose its closure, but also to commit to reversing the NHS England proposal?

Thanks in anticipation.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name]