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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Health care is not measured by cash

Many, we know, have been extremely upset by the decision to close Reiver House community hospital in Carlisle.

Anger hinges on various elements wrapped up in the sparse, uncompromising announcement made a few days ago.

Not least of those is that the hospital is well-loved and well-used. There’s worry too that if closure comes so easily to Reiver House, where is the security of Cumbria’s other highly valued cottage hospitals?

And as if all that weren’t enough, closure has been dictated without consultation – with firm warning that public opinion will not, at any stage, be taken into account.

So say the NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which funds the hospital, and the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust which runs it.

Fancy long titles those. Designed, no doubt, to have us losing the will to live while reading them, long before any of their utterances get to the point.

No need to consult those who pay for Reiver House (you and me) because (our) money is not being lost, just going elsewhere – on care of the elderly and vulnerable at home – they say.

But is that really the point? Has the NHS, in its many and various committees, divisions and forms, finally grown to believe its own publicity? Does it think the balance sheet mantra will be swallowed whole by all of us?

See, I can’t believe that. I can’t accept that anyone who genuinely values our health service, believes quality and necessary care is measured only by money. Or, more truthfully, the money left over after paying members of boards, committees and divisions with long titles.

Community hospital or home-care? Closer to home or in your front room? If they dared to ask you questions – and since there’s no consultation, they clearly dare not – those would be two of them. You pays your money and takes your pick... only they won’t let you pick.

Well, here’s another. Why should life or death, survival or recovery, become affordable either-or options? From bitter personal experience, I know they are not.

Following a nasty fall, my 85-year-old mother was admitted to an acute hospital for surgery. She had a heart attack in theatre. My dad, brother and I were called to her bedside and asked formally to agree it would be pointless to resuscitate her. We refused.

Slowly, very slowly, she regained a little strength but languished in that hospital for nearly four long months. She quickly became an inconvenience, a bed-blocker. Immobile and not well enough to go home – even with home-care – she was no longer an emergency, she was a burden, in the way.

There was nowhere for her to go. West Yorkshire long since rid itself of the community and cottage hospitals which serve Cumbria so well. She was marooned, frightened and no one had a solution, other than to send her to a nursing home to get her off the ward and out of the hair of busy staff.

So, off she went to a nursing home, at which she saw neither hide nor hair of a qualified nurse – never mind the physiotherapist and doctor’s visits she’d been promised.

For months my fretting father, a sympathetic social worker and I fought tooth and nail, at every level of that hospital and home, using fair language and foul, to have her returned home into his care, assisted by a district nurse and home carers, physiotherapist and her GP – when he’s badgered and threatened sufficiently to make a grudgingly rare home visit.

She has been home now for two or three months and is recovering well. She’s walking, laughing. Loving her stairlift.

An eight-month long, distressing journey of exhausting despair brought my family to this point of relief. Is this what Cumbria wants for its elderly?

Had Mum, in Yorkshire, had access to the treasures now enjoyed in Cumbria, she’d have been in a closer-to-home cottage hospital after a couple of weeks; home again to play on her new stairlift a month later at most.

For some the either-or is forced by bad decision-making that can’t now been reversed.

Cumbria isn’t there yet. But it could be soon. Whether they want your opinion or not – let them have it. If you don’t, there’ll almost certainly come a time when you wished you had.

Have your say

If it doesn't prove anything mentioning failing healthcare organisations why did you mention Mid-Staffs?

The raison detre of private companies is to make a profit and where they cannot make a profit they will cut and run (see Serco). Call me old fashioned but I prefer my hospitals to be run for the patients, not for profit.

Posted by Nick on 30 June 2014 at 08:16

Doesn't prove anything Nick. The NHS has good and bad organisations both private and public. I simply proved that a private company can take a falling NHS hospital and run it as an NHS hospital well. You are of the Daily Mirror stance; private= bad state=good. Nonsense

Posted by Christian on 28 June 2014 at 02:17

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