"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it"
Aneurin Bevan

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Lansley's Phantom Listening Meetings

NHS Future Forum Listening Events

The "pause" was announced on the 4th April, it was announced as a two month pause in some papers (Guardian) and three months in others (Independent). So that means the pause will last until 4th June or the 4th of July.  If we take the "pause" to be the Whitsun Recess then that means it will end on the 2nd June, so that is 19 working days. If we have a "three month pause" then that is 43 working days.
 On the 26 April Lansley said in Parliament that "a total of 119 events have already been organised centrally, and the regional and local NHS will organise many more".

I know of just two public events and a third private event. The first was the launch of the "pause" at Frimley Park (5 April) and the other was at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital (27 April). A third event with the Foundation Trust Network was held in Downing Street (19 April) and can hardly be regarded as a public event. If Lansley has arranged 199 events, then that leaves 116 other events between now, 4th May, and either the 2nd June or 4th July. If we have a "three month pause" then that is 43 working days so that means three events per day for each of the days during the "three month pause".

Surely we should be inundated by reports from these events?

Or maybe the Department of Health (and Lansley) is counting events other than those that can be attended by the public and NHS staff, like, the meetings of the Future Forum themselves? Even assuming they meet every day until the end of May (see below) and you treat the morning and afternoon meetings as two meetings (giving a total of 38), that means there are still 78 other meetings not accounted for. The 119 events clearly contains many phantom meetings.

The Summer Recess starts on the 27 July, so if there is a " three month pause" there will only be 17 days from the end of the "pause" until the House rises. During this time the Bill will have to be re-written (well, they have been doing a lot of listening, right?) and reprinted. The next stage of the Bill is the Report Stage during which the amendments to the Bill will be debated. The Report Stage often takes several days, but in the case of the Health and Social Care Bill Lansley has ensured that there have been few amendments made during the Committee Stage. The LibDems are demanding substantial amendments, but we have yet to see whether Lansley will agree to change the Bill accordingly, So either the Report Stage will be short (Lansley sticks to his guns), or long (he capitulates). The Report Stage is usually followed by the Third Reading with a debate typically on the same day as the last debate of the Report Stage. This will conclude the passage of the Bill in the Commons and it will then be passed to the Lords, where Lord Owen has promised to delay the Bill.

Will there be time for the Bill to actually make the House of Lords before they rise for the Summer Recess on the 28th July?

 On the subject of the Future Forum, according to the Department of Health website:
Following its initial report, which will be submitted by the end of May, the NHS Future Forum will continue to listen and advise on other non-legislative aspects of the modernisation plans, implementation of the changes, and the design of any secondary legislation.
So the Forum will only sit for a month (not the whole "pause" period") and will publish a report (no doubt congratulating Lansley on a wonderful Bill) at the end of May. After that, the Forum will not be concerned at all about the Bill so although they are supposed to be "listening" they won't be able to hear about anything concerning the Bill (so basically, don't bother saying anything to them). That's a bit fishy, don't you think?

The article on the Department of Health linked above, was written on the 13 April, three weeks ago. It promised to post a schedule of listening events. The list is still not published. The likelihood is that we will not see the list.

I have written to my MP asking for information about listening events in my area, I suggest that everyone does the same, and let's get the Department of Health to confess whether these events are real or not.

After writing this I found out that Roy Lilley has written his expected schedule of the "pause". Have a read of it here.

So now we hear that there are 150 listening exercises, but Simon Burns won't list them. What is he afraid of? Burns said, in response to a written question asking him to list the events:
The NHS Future Forum is participating in a number of meetings and events throughout the listening period. There will be in excess of 150 events over the eight week period, involving a wide range of participants from across the national health service, local government, third sector and beyond. The location of these events will largely be determined by the host organisation and as such, they will be held all over the country.
Incidentally, I am still waiting for a response from my (Tory) MP.

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