Monday, 3 June 2013

Lancashire's Health and Wellbeing Board. A victim of dirty politics?

I have written three times before in some detail about the scandal surrounding the £46m expenditure allocated from the NHS to Lancashire County Council for Health and Wellbeing in the County starting April 2013.

I am told that the whole amount has been spent by the outgoing Tories and crucially - and endorsed by the former shadow board who should have had no executive powers to do so. That responsibility should have been handed to the new board who began life on the 1st April 2013, just 31 days before the election and crucially within the restricted purdah period. Any decisions bearing in mind the small issue of an election you would have thought should have done on a cross party basis and signed after the election.

The crux of the problem as I wrote previously is those on the former board had no idea about Health and Wellbeing in Lancashire. The Health sand Wellbeing Boards plans were a long way from reality and rather than thoughtful, cross cutting, holistic and effective they were narrow based on protecting clinical self interest with the people of Lancashire being put last in the thought process. The whole consultation process was a sham, those that would have added to the consultation were bot consulted and shadow board members were brought in despite their vested interests. The public and those who had a lot more to offer were frozen out.

Clinicians obsessed with falling NHS budgets appear to have dictated policies but they should have at least had the sense to build bridges with the new administration at County Hall Although the shadow board never at any stage consulted with other partners such as MPs or local authorities, housing providers, employment providers or educational institutions including schools and Sure Start schemes as to what could be done with an annual budget of £46m.

I wrote to the board members about my concerns but did not receive a the courtesy of a reply except from Susie Charles. A culture of arrogance engulfed the shadow board.

It appears that clinical board members all had vested NHS interests or where swept along by new money for peripheral NHS services fallen victim to government cuts or pet projects, and alongside the outgoing Tory cabinet who had denied Labour positions on the Board - have cyncially signed away as I am led to believe in long term contracts most if not all the £46million.

Given the Tories could and did lose the election it was wholly wrong to bind the incoming administration to projects that do not have support of the new County Council in Lancashire.

It is clear Labour will end up unable or unwilling to support these ineffective and wasteful projects it believes do not serve the wider public interest, projects it believes waste vast sums of money, projects politically tied to certain organisations, projects that have no hope of ever tackling wider health and wellbeing statistics across Lancashire.

No Council or government should bind the next for its own dictatorial political ends as it presents a situation where chaos ensues and progress is impossible as there is no belief in these projects the new administration.

I have spoken with the cabinet member already about my deep concerns that Labour and by extension now, the whole of Lancashire County Council aparatus can of support and endorse contracts and schemes it has little faith in. The reality of such organisational issues is that officers may already  be engaging in covering their tracks.

Under Labour health and wellbeing in Lancashire would be more cross cutting. It would seek to go deeper into the problems. Tough on the causes of ill health and not just tough on ill health.

Labour may well as is the East Lancs CCG are doing, look into the rolling out of subsidised (or possibly free) leisure across Lancashire to reduce heart and other diseases and increase general wellbeing. If the Tories have wasted £46m already just 30 days into the budget then this is simply not going to happen and will be cause of ill feeling around the whole current Board.

Other schemes I'd urge Labour look at include subsidised school meals, bringing back school milk and policies around helping young people let down by their parents learn how to care for themselves rather the abuse their bodies with poor diet and lifestyle - all of which will cost the NHS much more when their health fails in early life. Many of these vulnerable youngsters will be young parents too. Schemes around parenting, infant provision as well as engaging in planning better housing and a better environment for poorer neighbourhoods are equally important.

I have urged the cabinet member to hold to account those responsible. Those vested interests who tried to feather their own nest ahead of the elections including officers, clinicians responsible and providers who greedily signed these contracts just days before Labour got in power. They knew an election was underway but went ahead none the less.

What the Tories, the clinicians involved and the new contracted providers have done is wrong for Lancashire, wrong for the people of Lancashire.

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