Crisis created by Westminster

PUBLISHED: 08:35 26 June 2006 | UPDATED: 09:29 24 May 2010

LOCAL MP John Penrose recently claimed in his regular Weston & Somerset Mercury column that he had asked the Prime Minister to halt the cuts that had just been announced at Weston Hospital", and that the Prime Minister had agreed to consider it". My un

LOCAL MP John Penrose recently claimed in his regular Weston & Somerset Mercury column that he had asked the Prime Minister "to halt the cuts that had just been announced at Weston Hospital", and that the Prime Minister had "agreed to consider it". My understanding is that, in fact, Mr Penrose asked the Prime Minister whether he agreed that the cuts were "not a problem created by local mismanagement but a crisis created by decisions made at Westminster?"Predictably, Mr Blair did not agree, and merely said he would look at how the introduction of a new system whereby hospitals receive 'payment by results' would apply in our area. In my view at least, this bears no resemblance whatsoever to Mr Penrose's claim that the PM has agreed to consider halting local cuts - he patently has not. However, in fairness I have written to Mr Penrose to enquire whether Mr Blair has been in touch. Don't hold your breath John!As Mr Penrose was elected, in part at least, on the strength of his promise to secure a 'fair deal for Weston Hospital' he clearly has a legitimate interest in standing up for the local NHS. No one would criticise him for that. However, he should not attempt to make personal capital out of the situation, particularly when it is obvious that he has not actually achieved anything. He has stated on several occasions that the introduction of 'payment by results' would rectify the local hospital trust's massive cash deficit. Yet, despite repeated requests, he has yet to explain to me (or anyone else as far as I know) how and why this is so.I'm afraid it's the same old story - we need action, not words, from our local MP, and indeed all our elected representatives. So the question I'd like to put to Mr Penrose, and the Weston Area Health Trust for that matter, is, 'What are you actually going to do about the situation?' Until somebody offers a coherent alternative policy for the NHS the Government's obsession with competition and privatisation will continue, and local people will suffer the consequences.We can all see that our local health services need reform, but none of us voted for the reduction and fragmentation of facilities and services all across our community. And who in their right mind would advocate divisive and expensive competition between the area's hard-pressed hospitals? Above all, how can it benefit local people for billions of pounds to be diverted out of their NHS into the coffers of private multinational companies who care more about profits than patients? They know practically nothing about the needs of those who live in our towns and villages, and they care even less.Despite the best efforts of all the people who work so hard in the local health service, we all know the reality. The situation on the ground gets worse day by day. Wards are closing, staffing levels are being reduced, and more and more services are being cut. Who really believes the local health trust's official line that "front line services will not be affected"?In truth, the only way to protect those local services is for people to get together to campaign, protest, and tell the Government that we simply will not accept the situation. It worked with the Poll Tax, and it can work for the NHS. How often in life do we fail to realise the true value of something until it's taken from us? We shouldn't let that happen to the NHS in North Somerset, and if we take a stand together we can make sure it doesn't.KELVIN FRASER - Montpelier, Weston

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