Originally published 14 November 2016.
Theresa May's government needs to listen to local people and take urgent action to protect local NHS services. That means extra funds for the NHS in the Autumn Statement, says the town's former MP and Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, Martin Horwood.
Tomorrow [Tuesday], Gloucestershire's Health & Care Overview and Scrutiny Committeee meets with Cheltenham Lib Dem Iain Dobie in the chair to hear how the NHS trust that runs both Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal hospitals is suddenly heading £24 million into the red. The figures contrast with the previous estimates that the trust would actually have money to spare this year and have been revealed by the trust's new chief exec Deborah Lee and have resulted in the Trust going into 'Financial Special Measures' by the Government.
Meanwhile Healthwatch Gloucestershire are due to report to the committee complaints of "long waits for repeat appointments in some departments eg cardiology", "long waits/delays for general surgery especially hernia operations" and "long waits for psychological therapies" and "not enough support for PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] in the military community and inability to access support without an official diagnosis."
But local Lib Dems say it's also a national problem. According to the independent health think tank, the King's Funds, two-thirds of NHS trusts across the country are now in deficit and the trend for the NHS as a whole is going sharply downwards.
"It's clear that our local NHS is already under tremendous pressure to deliver hospital and mental health services, including support for our ex-soldiers" said Martin Horwood, Cheltenham's former MP and now the town's Lib Dem parliamentary candidate "but the financial picture has got dramatically worse since the election" .
"During the coalition with the Lib Dems, most NHS trusts - including Gloucestershire - were in financial surplus. They weren't flush with cash but they were managing. Now most of them haven't got enough money from government to cover their rising costs and are facing financial crisis. And the government's plans show there's no prospect of the extra cash promised during the Brexit campaign either."
Last month, the Commons Health select committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston wrote to the government flatly telling them that they were giving a "false impression that the NHS is awash with cash" and that they had "given the NHS what it asked for" when this was not true and that in fact local NHS trusts faced "overwhelming" financial pressures.
In Westminster Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb MP is calling for MPs to look at ways to raise more funds for the NHS: "The Health select committee are right to call out the Government on false claims about their investment in the NHS. Services are desperately in need of the money they were promised. But this also ignores the bigger question of how we ensure health and care are sustainable in the long term, as demand for services continues to rise."
"The Liberal Democrats have set up an expert panel who will advise on how the additional funding the NHS really needs can be delivered - including whether a dedicated Health and Care Tax should be introduced to help guarantee the future of the NHS and vital care services."
"We can argue about plans to reduce demand for hospital, make people healthier and do more in the community" said Martin "but that all takes time. The worry is the local Trust will start planning to downgrade and close services this year. We saw this under Labour back in 2006 when we mounted a huge campaign to defend A&E and the maternity unit in Cheltenham - and we won. It's going to take real political muscle to defend local services again, starting with MPs' votes on the Chancellor's Autumn Statement on 23 November. That's the moment when local MPs can stand up and be counted. Local people really value these services. If the numbers simply aren't adding up, the government needs to stump up more cash as they promised during the Brexit campaign."
- The agenda and papers for tomorrow's Gloucestershire Health & Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting can be found here. Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Deborah Lee's report on the financial crisis facing the trust can be found here.
- Gloucestershire Healthwatch's report highlighting 'long delays' in acute and mental health services, including for PTSD, can be found here.
- Commons Health select committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston's letter to the Chancellor accusing the government is giving a false impression of NHS finances can be found here.
- Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb MP's call for extra tax revenue for the NHS can be found here.
- The independent King's Fund report into NHS finances can be found here but key charts highlighting how the NHS is funded and its deteriorating financial situation are shown below: