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Archive for the tag “#abetterhospitalforberwick”

Words in my window: two for the price of one!

A Better Hospital for Berwick, unity and dissonance, Halloween, Cancer and Cards Against Humanity all feature in September and October

I feel as if I may crash and burn. I aimed to have different words in my window each week for a year. I have managed that. Just. But I also thought I’d blog about them – not so much to search for meaning but to reflect on the meanings they conjured for myself and others. I have managed that each month. Just. Until now. So it’s two for the price of one.

Look, September and October have been fiercely busy. Perhaps the most important and mind-consuming thing has been the campaign: ‘A Better Hospital for Berwick’. This fight (and, actually, it is a fight) to ensure that our community’s hospital and essential facilities are not quietly shrunk away is stomach-clenchingly real. The idea that a whole population might be left vulnerable and isolated because of laziness and a focus on financial savings rather than on the realities of life lived and the inescapable fact of being over 60 slow, undualled miles from the nearest acute health facilities, is totally compelling. For me, it has been a wake-up call about the NHS. The NHS is not what it was. Like our hospital in Berwick, it’s been disappeared while we weren’t watching – actually, while we were watching thinking someone was fighting our corner and had our best interests at heart. We were wrong. You can read more about the Berwick hospital campaign and my views on the NHS here.

Inevitably my passion for this campaign infected my words in September: STAND/AND/BE was followed NO/MATTER/WHAT.

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The Husband suggests that the final week of October also sits with September’s passionate scream for compassion and an NHS that remains national and inclusive:

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Next up was LIFT/UP/YOVR (I ran out of Us). In some ways, I was thinking spiritually as one FB friend suggested when he cited some liturgy:

“Lift up your hearts”

“We lift them to the Lord”

But also voices. I was thinking hearts and voices. Lifting hearts and voices together is so much more powerful. Finding ways to unite rather than to dissociate is so much more productive. This is when positive things happen. When what is lost is saved. When what is denied is restored.

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And so to voices of a different kind. Whilst some saw pragmatic references such as THIS/IS/YOUR ‘last day of the working week’, my brother saw ‘birthday’. And, yes, it was the now 17-year-old’s birthday in that week and she had said: ‘it had better be about me’. What mother could refuse? Happy birthday to you!20180930_094320

CHOOSE/WORDS/WITH ‘enough letters to fit the light box’ said one friend. Correct. However, these last words of September generated the most (I think) polarised responses. From ‘passion’ to ‘an etymologist’, from ‘caution’ to ‘the letters you have available’, from ‘your window messages are perfect for a game of cards against humanity’ to ‘kindness’, ‘wisdom’ and ‘care’.

Talking of letters available, HELLO/MEllOW/FRUIT was called out for its hint of catty sounds (due to a lack of Ls) rather than its Autumnal references.

Did I say it’s been busy? As many readers will know, back in October 2015, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. It’s been a pretty weird three years. At times I felt my life was on hold or that I was waiting for it to be over. Sometimes I expected to wake up knowing who I was when the whole cancer thing stopped. But it hasn’t stopped. It doesn’t stop. It’s always with you. Your shadow. Your possible nemesis. Your companion. It’s not necessarily heavy and life-draining. Sometimes it’s just there. Sometimes it makes you lethargic. And sometimes it manifests itself in an urge to grab life by the balls.

So, I’m currently doing a course at Edinburgh University which is fascinating but demanding. It’s called Between Counselling & Research – a title too long to feature in my window but certainly enigmatic enough. Trust me, it makes my brain hurt. I’ve also started a new job as a part-time Community Fundraiser in Berwick for HospiceCare North Northumberland –  find out more about that here.

So, maybe TURN/BACK/THE was more about tides than clocks for me. For someone else it was: ‘Once upon a time I wouldn’t change anything but now.’ For one person it was: ‘Oh yes please! Turn it back to pre-June 2016’ (a pre-BREXIT ref). My Cards Against Humanity pal found plenty in his pack: ‘Unfathomable stupidity’, ‘Insatiable bloodlust’ and ‘Wearing an octopus for a hat’. Whilst ‘sheets’ and ‘curtain’ are both practical ideas, ‘EHT’ wins the prize.

Turn back the

Oh, and who decided that there was a Halloween week? Ridiculous.

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A better hospital for Berwick: Goodbye NHS :-(

I’ve had my eyes opened. The NHS is no longer the NHS. As recently as two days ago, I continued to believe that, at its core, the NHS we knew and loved 20, 30, 40 years ago still existed. I was deluded.

The NHS has been magicked away. Lost beneath a debris of neglect and greed. Many services have been consigned to the sharp box of the business sector – from GP practices, to clinics such as audiology. Haemorrhages in other services (cancer support, end-of-life care) are being staunched by voluntary organisations, often funded partly by the NHS but mainly through charitable giving. While many of us believed that Healthcare Trusts, Council Leaders and Commissioning Clinical Groups (CCG) had our best interests at heart they were stitching us up.

In 1948 Nye Bevan formed the NHS. Free care for all, from the cradle to the grave. He didn’t say that 50 years later it would end at Newcastle and begin again in Edinburgh!!!! Susan Allen, from A Better Hospital for Berwick Facebook page

Yesterday, along with a large crowd of other Berwick residents, I went to a drop-in session laid on by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Northumberland County Council (NCC). On the Council’s website this was billed as an opportunity to be listened to and to ask questions about the proposed new health and leisure facility planned for Berwick.

The local campaign group A Better Hospital for Berwick was formed in response to plans by the three groups above to build a co-located health and leisure facility in Berwick on the site of the current leisure centre. As covered in previous posts, the campaign group’s gripe is not with the investment into healthcare (or leisure), it is with the shrinkage of clinical provision and lack of planning and space for expansion.

Whilst Northumbria Healthcare, the NCC and the CCG claim that the facility will be world class, A Better Hospital for Berwick maintains that, whatever class it is, it will not be fit-for-purpose. That is, it will not return services that, over the years, have been removed from the current Berwick Infirmary – such as adequate Maternity provision and Endoscope facilities. In these circumstances, the group says that the authorities’ promise that ‘all the current services’ will remain is not good enough.

The campaign group say that this evasive phrase, ‘all current services’, will not stop the hours and hours that people spend on the A1 accessing essential hospital facilities; it will not address the loss of the vital Golden Hour to those in acute need of emergency care post stroke/heart attack; it will not address the grim reality of having to travel a round trip of  70 to 160 miles (Hexham hospital) for grim and intrusive procedures or simple pre-meds; it will not address the huge sums of money the NHS spends on taxis and transport of patients; it will not address the fact that 35 miles to the south of Berwick, Alnwick Infirmary has many of the facilities once available in Berwick, but not featured in current plans.

It is worth noting that Alnwick is about 28 miles from the nearest major trauma centre – the Cramlington Hospital – Berwick is 60 miles from the same facility. Whilst no one is advocating that it should be an either/or situation between Berwick and Alnwick, it does seem extraordinary that Berwick should be deprived of services (available in Alnwick) that would save time, money and lives.

The campaign group A Better Hospital for Berwick continues to attract local people from all walks of life and all ages. This fact, coupled with media coverage, has generated various responses from the NCC, the CCG and Northumbria Healthcare Trust. In the last week, they have released a video which they claim answers people’s questions, they have issued a four-page wrap-around PR initiative in the local paper, The Berwick Advertiser,  and organised yesterday’s drop in event.

The drop-in was held at a time when most people are at work (10am-1pm) and publicised only by social media and the local paper. The facilities and the staffing were woefully inadequate. The room was cramped and stuffy, the NCC and NHS representatives were not able to answer many questions. The aim of the meeting as far as the NCC and NHS were concerned was made clear in the form we were handed after we had queued to get in:

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If you ask loaded questions you will always get an answer you can line up with the decision you’ve already made.

Stephen Holmes of NHS Northumbria Healthcare Community Services (pictured centre below) was asked about clinical provision in the new facility. He replied that ‘the decision on what clinical services will be provided [in the new health/leisure facility] has been taken and is irreversible’. Mr Holmes went on to say that the decision ‘wasn’t consulted on because the NHS is not required to consult.’

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I wish I could write a pause for you to retrieve your jaws off the ground. THE NHS IS NOT REQUIRED TO CONSULT. This service that we pay for. That we support. That we cherish. This service has stopped caring about people. It has become a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces are moved around with little or no thought given to the impact the arrangement of those pieces will have on people’s lives. Doubly distressing and terrifying is that our elected representatives are complicit in this.

I wrote to Peter Jackson Leader of NCC expressing my concerns about the plans and asking very specific questions. After prompting him, I received a response. He forwarded to me an open letter he had sent to our local councillors which included this:

There have been ongoing issues about access to health services in Berwick since the opening of the new A&E in Cramlington. The decision at that time of siting that facility so far south was made with the assent of the then ruling Liberal Democrat administration at the County Council which did include Berwick Councillors in positions of responsibility for these matters.

No! NO. This is not good enough, Mr Jackson. The facilities at Alnwick Infirmary have not been reduced since Cramlington – we in Berwick are often sent there for pre-meds and endoscopes.

There were plans in place as recently as 2016 (based on the 2013/4 paper) to rebuild Berwick Infirmary and include all the lost clinical facilities, including endoscopies. It is under your watch that this co-located facility, with its emphasis on obesity and so-called lifestyle health issues, has been concocted.

Berwick needs better than this. Berwick needs a better hospital.

And that’s exactly what all those people crammed into that too-small, sweaty space at Swan Leisure Centre will keep saying until we are heard. This isn’t paperwork to be pushed around someone’s desk until they like the way it sits. This is people’s lives and people’s wellbeing.

 

 

(c) Jackie Kaines

A Better Hospital For Berwick gathers momentum

This morning some 300 people gathered to demonstrate against the plans to build a new ‘health facility’ in Berwick – co-located with a new leisure facility.

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It may seem extraordinary that a population would not want such new facilities. Well, of course, people want and need decent healthcare provision and proper clinical services (and a leisure facility too) here in Berwick. And that is what is driving the campaign group A Better Hospital for Berwick.

Under the new plans, Northumberland County Council and the other groups involved (Clinical Commissioning Group and Northumbria Healthcare Foundation) in the decision-making process assert that:

Every service currently present at the existing site will continue to be provided at the new one. Indeed we are optimistic that, over time, new ones will be added; particularly as the NHS and the Council continue to embrace new technology and ways of working.

However, clinical services in Berwick have already been magicked away. For example, an endoscope purchased by Berwick Infirmary’s League of Friends is now sited in Alnwick, 35 miles south of Berwick. This means a minimum 70-mile round trip (but often a 120-mile round trip to Ashington or other hospital facilities such as North Tyneside and Hexham)  for an extremely invasive procedure. It’s a procedure that is both distressing and traumatic (I know this first-hand from my own bowel cancer diagnosis back in 2015) and leaves one prone to embarrassing and humiliating accidents afterwards.

So, to suggest that ‘every service currently present… will continue’ is a bit of verbal trickery. A Better Hospital For Berwick maintains that clinical services such as endoscopes and others that have been taken away should be restored under any plans for health provision in Berwick. These services were certainly in plans to refurb the current Infirmary as recently as 2016 – but are not in plans for the co-located facility.

The campaign group maintain that for the authorities to suggest that the removal of services is due to ‘dwindling demand’ is perverse. Ultimately it is the authorities who drive demand by where they locate clinical facilities and where patients are referred.

The Cabinet meeting this morning focused on the leisure centre facilities. Leader of NCC, Peter Jackson, asserted that the Cabinet members had nothing to do with decisions regarding healthcare provision. The Agenda for the meeting states:

To seek agreement to the development of improved leisure facilities in Berwick
Recommendations
● To agree to moving a scheme forward with Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust as a combined project (Leisure and Hospital facility) at the Swan site.

● To approve an increase in the capital program allocation for the leisure centre development to £18m from the current allocation of £6m approved plus £6m in the y year capital plan.

● To approve the commencement of the detailed design phase in conjunction with Active Northumberland.

Clearly, despite what Mr Jackson says, any decisions taken are linked to both leisure and healthcare provision.

A Better Hospital For Berwick has gathered a big following. It has shown that it can gather and unite people in Berwick despite chilly weather and a meeting time when most people are at work. It has gained press coverage (ITV Tyne Tees and BBC North as well as Radio Borders and The Berwick Advertise were covering the demo this morning). The test for the group will be to maintain momentum and communicate its concerns coherently and cohesively within the community and beyond.

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Save our hospital facilities!

In 2016, the spades were nearly in the ground. Berwick Infirmary was to be refurbed, substantially rebuilt and updated with comprehensive clinical services from X-ray to day surgery, physio to A&E, and chemotherapy to beds and wards. Crank forward two years and a very different plan is on the table.

Northumberland County Council (NCC), Northumbria Healthcare Trust and the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are moving forward with an integrated facility on the site of the Swan Leisure Centre. Hospital and Leisure Centre would sit side by side on one site. And why not? As long as both services are delivered effectively and infrastructure, access, safety and other core issues are addressed, surely co-location doesn’t matter a fig.

However, a local group ‘A Better Hospital for Berwick’ views things very differently. The group evolved after Nigel Szczepaniak, a local pharmacist and hypnotherapist, made an impassioned video statement on Facebook about the whittling away of health and hospital facilities. The joint statement from the CCG, NHS and NCC states that ‘every service currently present at the existing site will continue to be provided at the new one’. Szczepaniak points out that, over the years, the services available at the Infirmary have been substantially reduced.

The suggestion is that the promise of NCC, Northumbria NHS Trust and CCG is therefore a shallow one. A sleight of hand to conceal reduced healthcare facilities whilst addressing the problems of a leisure facility which is losing money.

Nigel set up a Facebook page A Better Hospital for Berwick which is led by local woman Kirsty Jamieson . In the space of 10 days or so it’s gathered nearly 3000 members. Last night (Wednesday 5 September 2018), an open meeting in the Salvation Army Hall attracted some 150 people. The welcome from the Lieutenant in charge of the hall included a request to ‘remember this is a place of worship and please use appropriate language’. The plea was unnecessary.

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(Photo Gayle Skelly)

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(Photo Jim Herbert)

People from all political persuasions and all ages had crammed into the hall to discuss how to stop hospital facilities being disappeared from the town. These include endoscopies which have been relocated to Alnwick – a 70–mile round trip – and will not be returned under the new plans. The campaign to halt the CCG agreeing to the co-location plans as they stand is a pressing issue. There’s a cabinet meeting on Monday 10th September at 10.00am at Berwick’s Swan Leisure Centre to approve the plans.

The group discussed what their aims should be and shared moving and often tragic stories of the ill and elderly traipsing  to Ashington or Cramlington for short appointments or invasive treatments (a 120-mile round trip), of sick children being airlifted out of Berwick and women having babies in ambulances on the A1. Others spoke of no longer being able to have pre-ops at Berwick – that’s another 70-mile round trip to Alnwick.

People were, on the whole, realistic: Berwick cannot expect a state-of-the-art all-singing all-dancing hospital facility. What it should expect and needs is a facility that delivers essential clinical services to the 13,000 residents of Berwick and the outlying population as well as to the thousands of tourists who visit the town and area each year. Given the challenges of the undualled A1, the two-strong Ambulance service in Berwick and an ageing population – it does not seem unrealistic to expect this. The town relies heavily on a voluntary helicopter ambulance and Berwick & District Cancer Support Group which provides free volunteer-driven cars for those who need to get to and from the Newcastle and Ashington facilities.

The group agreed that the focus of their action would be:

  • A fit-for-purpose hospital for Berwick – with the facilities, clinical services and room for expansion that were to be included in the hospital that was so nearly delivered in 2016

(Edit: I should make it clear that the campaign group A Better Hospital for Berwick suggest that facilities and services  ‘promised following the 2014 hospital consultation, should be the minimum provided’.)

A Better Hospital for Berwick claims that the consultation process was flawed and that the majority of people in Berwick hold strong views that are contrary to those presented to the health and wellbeing committee. A Better Hospital for Berwick says that many local people were simply unaware of the consultations, and that others felt their views had not been recorded correctly. The health and wellbeing committee has asserted that the process could have been better but had been carried out properly.

For those who wish to make their voices heard on the issue and find out more about the plans the group has in the forthcoming days, follow the hashtag #abetterhospitalforberwick on Twitter and click here to go the Facebook page. The group is urging people to contact those on the attendee list for the meeting on Monday to voice their concerns as soon as possible. The full agenda and papers and list of potential attendees can be found here. Calls were also made to lobby local MP Anne-Marie Trevlyan, local councillors and local media.

(c) Jackie Kaines

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