Thursday, 18 October 2012

Lanson Community Network Panel does health

Four times a year, the Launceston Community Network Panel meets to discuss issues of concern locally. Tonight we looked at the local health service and the changes in provision that are coming over the next 12 months.

Thanks to all the town and parish councillors who came along, as well as the health service people who answered so many questions.

One of the key questions was about the closure of a number of beds at Launceston Hospital. This has been put down to staff shortages and, I am told, the transfer of staff back to Stratton Hospital. Apparently Peninsula Community Health (who run our hospital) have been trying to recruit new staff but have failed to do so. One of the problems, it seems, is that their new staff cannot join the NHS pension scheme. It appears that the pension scheme being offered by PCH isn't up to scratch.

In my opinion, the answers being given by the PCH and other representatives there were simply not good enough. We don't know why they failed to prepare for the movement of staff, why they have failed to offer good enough terms and conditions to recruit new staff or when the hospital will be fully open for business. We have asked for a better report...

The other key issue is the need to expand Launceston Medical Centre. A year ago the business manager at the centre told us that they were trying to negotiate to use space within the hospital grounds for extra car parking and to expand the building itself. Twelve months on and the situation is exactly the same. I don't blame the GPs or the medical centre staff for this. It appears that, since the Primary Care Trust discovered that it was being abolished, nobody from that organisation has been willing to step up to the plate and do what they are meant to - ensure that there are adequate GP services for the population of Launceston.

When new houses are built there will inevitably be more demand for public services. Our education service requires developers to make contributions to fund the extra school places that will be needed. But the health service (in the form of the Primary Care Trust) completely fails to do so. As a council, we cannot hand money over to a private business like the medical centre. But we can listen to requests from the people who are meant to be in charge of services - the PCT. Once again, it seems, they are failing to serve local residents.

The PCT's responsibility for commissioning GP services will shortly transfer to a new local NHS Commissioning Board. I'm hoping they will address Launceston's needs as a matter of urgency.

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