Yesterday I left the hens to the tender mercies of Albert and Bob and headed north to Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal. The occasion was the opening of their brand new treatment centre for cancer patients, a development funded by the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, an NHS charity covering the region. The suite of treatment areas and consulting rooms is maginificent, and the views from its fourth floor windows ever bit as beautiful as one would expect on the edge of the Lake District.
A number of patients attended and each of them told the same story. Prior to this development they had been obliged to travel considerable distances each day for their treatment and, given the immediate side effects, they had to arrange for a driver. People who bang on about public transport should try using it for rural areas! All said that the new facility had improved their quality of life almost beyond recognition. Popping in to the local hospital for an hour is one thing, doing round trips of sixty plus miles and then struggling for a parking space another.
This is, by modern standards a relatively small hospital and it has all the positives that derive from that. Plenty of parking, a committed bunch of nurses with whom patients can develop a relationship, and a quiet intimate feel to the place. I was walking down corridors in search of the suite and was on three occasions asked if this nurse or that could help, an impossible experience in a vast hospital with hundreds sweeping along its corridors every minute. Westmorland really is a stress-free zone.
Without doubt this development is a huge breakthrough for local people and it occurred to me that it is the exact opposite of what Andrew Lansley is trying to achieve. He wants mega-sized units some fifty miles apart, the argument being that such an arrangement ensures the best highly specialised medicine. As with much of what he says it is nonsense. This hospital holds clinics headed up by the best consultants who travel from larger units. Better they travel than the patients, was the view of one specialist that I chatted to.
Lansley can argue for ever about the uneconomic practice of having a hospital at the centre of every community, he will never convince those who need treatment on a daily, or regular, basis. Big is stressful, small is calming and restful. One patient told me that at Westmorland she is an individual, not a number.
In any case the so-called reforms which Lansley is still attempting to promote save nothing. The cost of his ludicrous plan is now forecast at £1.49 billion and rising. Analysis by the Health Service Journal has shown that the transition to placing health budgets in the hands of GPs has already cost almost £300 million. Already 20,000 nurses and other medical professionals have been made redundant and average settlements are running at £45,000, More importantly a huge bank of skills is being lost for ever. And morale of those remaining is bound to suffer. Alan Maynard, professor of health economics at York University, says that the delays and time taken for the reforms have begun to “wear down morale and work ethic. Nurses need to know whether they will have a job come next year”
And we still hear Lansley banging on about private providers. When it comes to conditions such as cancer they simply don’t exist. The only work that Mr Lansley’s pals want is the routine, profitable stuff. Take that away from NHS hospitals and their financial infrastructure will collapse. Of course he is happy at that prospect since it takes us down his favoured route of mergers and far fewer units.
Of course people far more expert than me will argue about all this for ever. All I know is that if I lived in the Kendal area I would be delighted to know that, if the worst happens, I now have easy access to expert treatment in a relaxed environment. Perhaps Mr Lansley should make a visit. I’m sure Tim Farron, the local Lib Dem MP, would be happy to arrange it for he has played a big part in securing this local breakthrough!
TODAY’S GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUIZ; 1. Which Irish group were “Breathless” at making No 1 in the year 2000? 2. England keepers David Seaman and Richard Wright were together at which club in September 2001? 3. Which ocean is to the east of South Africa? 4. What part of the body goes after Winged to name golf’s 2006 US Open venue? 5. Under which nationality did Navratilova play her final Wimbledon? 6. If an animal has not been sighted for 50 years it is described as what? 7. What kind of game in bridge? 8. Which country beginning with an E joined the European Union in 2004? 9. Which dance was connected with Marlon Brando and Paris? 10. A natural sponge is what colour?