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Oppose the Hospital Closure Clause

Sunday, 23 February 2014 17:57
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The following is a letter sent by Stroud Against the Cuts member Caroline Molloy, published in the Stroud News and Journal, February 2014. For the latest on the campaign see: "Don't close our hospitals on the quiet, protesters tell Health Secretary". Why not write to Neil Carmichael MP about this?

Despite fierce opposition from doctors, 38 Degrees, the British Medical Association and charities, the Government is trying to rush through changes that will make it far easier to close hospitals without public consultation.

If one hospital, even outside Gloucestershire, gets into trouble, other popular and well-run hospitals in our area could be downgraded or shut down to balance the books under the proposed new rules.

Recently, a court ruling stopped Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt from closing accident and emergency and maternity services at popular Lewisham Hospital. Now the Government wants to remove the law that protected Lewisham.

If Clause 118 of the Care Bill, dubbed the ‘hospital closure clause’, becomes law in February, the fate of hospitals, including Stroud Hospital, could be taken out of our hands.

We already know that the Government is quietly reviewing the future of half the hospitals in the country.

If our hospital was threatened, this new law would give local people, doctors, and councillors little or no say in what happened to it.

That’s an awful prospect.

The Royal College of Physicians has said that "handing powers to special administrators to make decisions about neighbouring trusts is cause for concern".

The UK already has fewer hospital beds than most developed countries.

The British Medical Association opposes the hospital closure clause, saying it would allow the Health Secretary to "force changes through the back door". Writing in the British Medical Journal, Professor Allyson Pollock says that the clause will "undermine equal access to care in England" and removes "checks and balances designed to ensure that changes are in the interests of the communities affected", with centrally-appointed decision-makers only having to think about money.

Public outcry now could force the Government to change the worst aspects of the Bill — including the hospital closure clause — in its final stages early next year.

Will Neil Carmichael MP press to get the Bill amended and the hospital closure clause dropped — or will he put the future of Stroud’s Hospital services in jeopardy?

Since 2012 the Health Secretary no longer has a duty to secure a comprehensive health service, but he wants more power to impose fast-track hospital closures with no reference to the views of local people.

What happened to "no decision about me without me"?

Caroline Molloy

Last Updated on Sunday, 23 February 2014 18:01

What is

Friday, 21 February 2014 17:09
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An introduction to by Stroud Against the Cuts member Hannah Basson:

Over recent months there has been much media attention regarding a new way of collecting patient data.  '' is an initiative to draw together all the health details of everyone in England in to one place.  This system is not the same as the local systems that your GP and other health providers use.  If your GP, physiotherapist, consultant etc (care team) ask if you are okay with your data being shared with other health professionals, they are referring to systems which merely allow one health professional to share your treatments with another, eg that your GP can see easily you had some treatment from someone in your local hospital so this can have some relevance for the treatment your GP provides – this enables joined-up care and is used simply for you and in your presence.  This data cannot go beyond the care team.

But this is not ''. '', they say, is designed to allow the NHS to examine nationwide statistics so they can work out what is working well and make changes to those treatments that are not so good. However, we must remember that now there are private companies working under the NHS banner which are very secretive and they are likely to be more interested in your information to increase their profits.

News February 2014

put on hold There have been several 'listening pauses' regarding new government policies – these have, on the whole, resulted in no real change to address the concerns which have triggered these pauses.  This pause is not to change how data is harvested or how it is used, it is simply to give more time for the public to understand what is being proposed.

By now, nearly all  households should have received
a leaflet (link to pdf version) from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC)
The leaflet tells you of the benefits of sharing your information, it lists the benefits for the planning and implementing of health services in England.  It informs us that our data will not identify us in person.  For an article which is in favour of the new programme, you might go to
The Nuffield Trust site.
Under the 2012 Heatlh and Social Care act, surgeries must comply with requests for their data to be uploaded to the central database for all patients on their books unless the person has opted out.         

Why Opt Out?

The GP's own news site Pulse, highlights a number of issues with this data extraction, in an article revealing that patient-identifiable data have already been approved on request to several sources, 12 of which are bodies outside of the NHS. As revealed through a question to the Health Minister, Dan Poulter, by Conservative MP David Davis, the police can still request patient-identifiable data even if you have opted out. Both the Telegraph and the Guardian have been full of articles expounding on the details of how our data may or may not be used – and mostly, by a huge majority, how our identifiable data will get in to the hands of those who may not have our health at the heart of their organisations. An insightful article by Shibley Rahman can be read here raising many concerns about who might gain from our data.   And if you still are not cynical enough, the mere knowledge that ATOS helped develop the extraction tool for pulling our data should raise an eyebrow!

How can I opt out? Most surgery websites have forms for you to fill in to opt out of your data being passed on in an identifiable form (although any reasonable person might assume that 'opting out' would prevent any data leaving your GP's surgery at all).  You can also find forms online
here at MedConfidential.

GPs opting out

GPs must upload your data but, if you 'opt out', they then put a code against your name to say that you have not agreed for your information to be passed on to anyone.

An article in the Telegraph on 10th February stated that "Family doctors who refuse to hand over patient information for a controversial NHS database will not be told what their punishment will be until it is too late to change their minds" and "doctors who intend to rebel against the database have been issued with warning letters which state that failure to hand patient records to the national data-sharing scheme puts them in “breach of contract” with the health service". 


How about GPs as patients? A snapshot survey of about 400 GPs revealed that over 40% plan to opt out of

So how confident are you in this new system of data harvesting and selling? I could direct you to a hundred articles that all say the same thing – our personal data is for sale and no one knows to whom or in what form – with varying degrees of identification at each level – each article with a less-than-convincing rebuttal from a relevant authority.


However, to be fair, it's not only government bodies and those in private health and with vested interests that are saying all will be fine, those better known for their campaigning for a publicly-owned, fairer NHS and for fighting the 2012 Health and Social Care Act also have something to say in favour of  Pollock and Macfarlane believe that opting out means data will be inadequate to assess the impact of government policies to privatise the NHS.  They believe that opting out plays in to the hands of the private sector.

Their article is very fair and looks at the debate from all angles. They say "Patients and the public need to make it clear to NHS England that their consent for medical records to be uploaded to is conditional on it not being used for commercial purposes or handed over to third parties such as drug companies and health insurance and health care corporations."


Of course, it may be that the whole project is a waste of £50million

"Board papers drawn up by Department of Health (DoH) officials warn that proposed EU regulations to harmonise rules on data protection would not allow such a system - because they state that individuals must give explicit consent, knowing the specific purpose for which data is being used." (quote from Telegraph article)


In case you were wondering if I was opting out, I'm with Dr Hadrian Moss who says

"Now I’m not being silly and opting out completely.  I’m quite happy for my data to be shared within the NHS but no way am I letting it go to third parties, even if it’s anonymised.  If high level government officers can leave laptops and USB sticks full of confidential data lying around then how likely is it my data will filter out at some point?*  Not that I have anything to hide, but it’s the principle that’s important, especially when this information could be combined with my shopping habits and sold on to interested parties."



*Professor Sir Brian Jarman, health data expert, warned that firms could identify patients within a few hours.  Although the information is meant to be pseudonymised (a form of anonymity), Sir Brian said it would be easy to find patients from those details. 

Last Updated on Saturday, 22 February 2014 18:40

Gloucestershire District Nurses Speak Out

Tuesday, 03 December 2013 15:48
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Stroud Against the Cuts have become concerned about changes to the provision of District Nursing in Gloucestershire lately, and have sought answers to questions from Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust (GCS) and the Health Care and Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee at Gloucestershire County Council. We have also demonstrated our support for District Nurses at a lobby of the board of GCS.

The comments below have all come from individual District Nurses in Gloucestershire, partly in response to an invitation made by SATC. We continue to invite District Nurses to get in touch with information or anonymous comments on the changes so that we can help to publicise what is happening ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it | 07583 497887).


1. "The proposals mean we are expected to cover extended hours but we have been told that there will not be any more district nurses, so this means an obvious dilution to the service we currently provide. On top of this there are nurses who are unable to take on the the new shift pattern because of their circumstance. For instance, a number of them are single parents. These staff are effectively being forced to hand in their notice. This will dilutes the service even more - at least until they recruit, which always takes considerable time.

Previously we have visited patients in pairs, but in May the lone working policy was changes so we will visit patients alone. We are very concerned that we will have to go out alone in the dark to places/people who are unfamiliar to us. We've been told there is no evidence to show that we are more likely to be attacked at night than during the day - but we have not been shown any evidence to back this up. Some staff will have no base, and instead have been told they can 'hot desk' at one of the 54 desks in the new social services office due to open in January, which is impractical - not least in terms of patient confidentiality."


2. "I am concerned about how the changes to work hours will affect the service as it seems the number of staff working for the current service will be diluted over additional hours. I am personally unsure how I will be able to fit my job around child care and my partners shift pattern and so on if I'm forced to change my work hours. The change in hours is quite dramatic rather than a slight adjustment - this is really stressful! I worry that when people hear that there is a large cash injection they will think it will enhance our service but the money is actually aimed at a different part of the service [the rapid response element, see below comment from Stroud Against the Cuts]."


3. "There are so many of us that are deeply concerned with the proposed changes. Staff are facing dramatic changes in their life circumstances with is causing a great deal of anxiety. Many experienced staff are unable to work the proposed hours due to other commitments. If the Trust go ahead with their plans I think we will lose, completely unnecessarily, these experienced staff. A loss in experienced staff may put patient care at risk and lead to a poorer service. Documents are no substitute for relationships built up over time. We don't understand why new nurses couldn't have been recruited to cover an extension in hours, rather than existing staff having their hours completely changed."

"Our service will not be able to cope with extending the day to cover 15 hours rather than the 11 hours we currently cover. The trust reports there is £3.9 million to support this service, however the more conversations I hear, the more I believe this money is really for the rapid response service only. Even if we are entitled to some of this money, how on earth can we recruit and train staff in time for the roll out of this service? The length of time it takes to train a community nurse should not be underestimated, due to the unique nature of them working alone, often having to be self reliant"


4. "I am completely against the changes proposed. Despite repeated requests, staff have not seen any evidence that supports the need to change our current service provision. I have not known of any occasions where a patient's needs have not been met by our current shift pattern. However, we are already just about managing our caseloads with the current hours/staff. Now we are being asked to cover additional hours without additional District Nurses, I really believe patient care will actually be compromised by the changes. On a personal level, this is causing me great anxiety and stress. Due to other commitments I cannot work the proposed shifts and will be looking for another job in the near future. This makes be very sad indeed as I am in the privileged position of loving my job."

Last Updated on Monday, 16 December 2013 19:10

District Nurses - we can work together

Friday, 29 November 2013 14:37
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Dear District Nurses of Gloucestershire,

We've been hearing strong concerns from GCS staff - both district nurses and others - about planned changes to working conditions such as shift patterns and shifts to work location. We know that staff are very concerned about the impact this will have on patients in terms of quality of care, continuity of care, and safety.

We share these concerns. This isn't about  'resisting change' for the sake of it, as some staff have been told. As members of the public, we are very worried that it seems some quite basic questions which will impact on patients too, have not been properly thought through and that the knowledge of frontline staff about what actually will and won't work in practice, seems not to be being listened to enough.

We have been trying to help by highlighting concerns in the press, writing to GCS, etc.


We can continue to speak out, but you have the networks and knowledge that is vital to gather and share information.

How you can help us:

1. Please continue to send us quotes (which we will anonymise before using on our website/in articles)
with your concerns, particularly about how the changes will impact patients. These quotes can be as short or long as you like. Send to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it (we previous utilised anonymous staff comments in the successful campaign against turning Gloucestershire Care Services into a social enterprise)

2. Please encourage others to do the same, by sharing this information, our website (, articles (such as this one on our demonstration of support with District Nurses) and press releases (eg. this one on our concerns regarding District Nurses) with your networks.

3. If you have not already done so, please do send your concerns in writing to your union reps, so they can report concerns collectively in the workplace.

We are doing our best to help, but when we have raised these concerns as members of the public with the most directly involved councillors (those on the health scrutiny committee) they have either not responded or have told us (in the case of Labour councillors) they are reluctant to raise concerns
because (they say) the unions have not raised any. We are not convinced this is the case - and even if
it were, we are dissatisfied with this answer from councillors, who are here to represent the public. As noted above, there are obvious grounds for public concern.

The more evidence there is of people on the frontline speaking out, the harder it becomes for these concerns to be dismissed. We are happy to help anonymise this speaking out to protect you, though this is also the union's role. Please also think about asking your GP contacts if they will speak out publicly about what is going on, eg in the press.

We really value the work you are doing in the NHS and appreciate the difficult pressures you are under. I hope we can work together to make some difference even if its just to let people know what's going on.

Last Updated on Friday, 29 November 2013 18:38

Stroud Against the Cuts supports Cheltenham A&E campaign

Friday, 29 November 2013 10:52
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In July 2013 the acute Hospital Trust in Gloucestershire downgraded A&E services at Cheltenham General Hospital (CGH) between 8pm and 8am. During this period the A&E Department will be staffed by Emergency Nurse Practitioners (ENPs), rather than specialist A&E Consultants and Doctors. This means some patients are now referred to Gloucester or Frenchay in Bristol instead of Cheltenham.

The Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce has instigated a campaign, called REACH (Restore Emergency At Cheltenham Hospital), which is working with local businesses, local residents and other campaign groups such as 38 Degrees and Stroud Against the Cuts to achieve the following objective:  



"To have a fully functioning, fully staffed A&E Department operating 24/7 re-instated at Cheltenham General Hospital, which serves a population of at least 200,000 in Cheltenham, Tewkesbury Borough and the North Cotswolds, at the earliest possible opportunity.”


REACH add that "The focus of the REACH campaign is, as the title suggests, to secure the re-establishment of a full 24/7 Accident and Emergency department at Cheltenham hospital to serve the people of that town and the surrounding districts of Gloucestershire. The campaign is also keeping a watching brief on the related A&E services: the 111 phone line; ambulance provision; and the out of GP hours service. All of these appear to be under pressure and all impact on the quality of response to patients at times of acute needs."

Stroud Against the Cuts supports the objective and work of the REACH campaign. For more information see:

Last Updated on Friday, 29 November 2013 11:03

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