It is no secret that our National Health Service is currently facing a period of real challenge – arguably the greatest it has ever faced. The twin pressures of an ageing population and chronic under investment since 2010 are colliding to create a crisis that if not tackled effectively could make the NHS as we know it unsustainable.
What we need is a plan for the future. What we don’t need is unhelpful and inaccurate speculation. Sadly that is what occurred the other week when the Health Service Journal (HSJ) incorrectly reported that the A&E department at Tameside Hospital has been earmarked for downgrade or even closure.
I was pleased to see that Tameside Hospital quickly ended the speculation by issuing a clear statement last week that the report in the HSJ was not accurate.
So let’s be absolutely clear; the A&E department at Tameside Hospital has not been earmarked for downgrade or closure. As the hospital said in their statement, the Healthier Together review of hospitals across Greater Manchester (which reported in 2015), made a commitment to invest in and improve all of Greater Manchester’s A&E departments, including here in Tameside. And that is what is happening. That’s not downgrading or closing, it’s about as far away from downgrading or closing as you can get.
The real story here in Tameside and Glossop is Care Together, our plan for the future of our health and care services. 2017 will be a big year for our Care Together programme as we continue to turn our plans into reality for local people. In a nutshell, the job of Care Together is to enable local people to make lifestyle choices that mean a trip to the doctor or hospital is something they rarely have to make. It is through self-care at home and local services based in the community that we can increase healthy life expectancy and make our health and care system financially sustainable in a period of funding cuts and an ageing population. But alongside this we will also ensure that where people do need to visit the doctor or the hospital, including A&E, they will get the best possible high quality service.
At the end of last year, we secured £23 million in Transformation Funding from the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership – a major endorsement and statement of confidence in our plans in Tameside and Glossop. And earlier this month Tameside Hospital achieved an overall score of ‘Good’ following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission. They’ve had their difficulties in recent years, but the team and staff at the hospital have performed absolutely first class improvement work. So I believe we can move forward with our plans with confidence and purpose.
Oh, and by the way, if the speculation had been true, and there were plans to downgrade or close Tameside’s A&E department then I and Tameside Council would have been at the forefront, fighting tooth and nail, to keep Tameside’s A&E open.