National Voices statement on hospitals, community care and patient involvement

The AGM 2010 agreed to sign up to this statement. We felt that these words were not exactly those we would have chosen, but the majority were prepared to support them:

“Many people are calling for hospital closures and a shift of NHS funding into primary and community settings. It is time for patients to have a say. National Voices is a coalition of national voluntary organisations advocating for patients, carers and service users. Our members expect a wave of service changes which will inevitably include hospital closures as the NHS scrabbles to find some £20 billion of savings.

This need not be a bad thing.  Too many people are admitted to hospital unnecessarily, stay too long and have a poor experience. Better care planning for the 17 million people with long term conditions would keep more people out of hospital, in better health and at less cost to the taxpayer. Hospitals are bad places for people with dementia. Not all hospital care is good enough, safe enough, or in the right place.

But  it does not follow that every hospital closure will be justified. Cutting costs risks cutting corners. It is vital that patients and citizens have a genuine say in local schemes. In much of the country this doesn’t happen.    Too often people experience a tick-box “consultation” on what is really a fait accompli.

National Voices  demands a different approach, which treats people as grown-ups. Managers must do their homework and present schemes that will improve quality and safety. Patients and citizens must be informed and involved from the outset. Savings must be reinvested in new services and people need a say in what they will be. Above all, local leadership is required. If there is a medical case for change, let’s hear the doctors making it. And local politicians need to be responsible.  “Save our local hospital” is the line of least resistance and not always the right one.