People-power saves Glenfield Heart Unit!

PPW

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