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.”