February report to Mid Samford parishes: Capel, Stratford, Holton and the Wenhams

From Councillors Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard

In this edition

  • Village Hall roof fund gets a boost
  • Capel Post Office move to Co-op store
  • Babergh plans for no council tax increase
  • New consultation on future plans for housing and business sites in Babergh
  • Scrutinising health issues including winter stresses on local hospitals
  • Message from the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) re speeding in towns and villages

Village Hall roof fund gets a boost
We are very pleased that Babergh District Council has been able to give a grant of £19,000 towards the replacement roof for Capel Village Hall.

Capel Post Office move to Co-op store
The Post Office has now confirmed the transfer of Capel Post Office branch to the Co-op supermarket in the village. They seem to have addressed people’s concerns about security and queuing. The move is likely to take place in the June.

Babergh plans for no council tax increase
Decreasing Government grants are challenging local councils who either have to innovate and reduce costs or cut services. Over the past year the council has started installing solar panels on council houses. This will give a guaranteed income as well as providing free electricity to tenants. There may also be an opportunity to extend this scheme to private homes in the future. We’d be interested to hear your views on this.
Council house rents are going up slightly. The budget for council house repairs and new council properties is “ring fenced”. This means that, for example, rental income can’t be used to subsidise other council services. The planned rent increases will be used to build new council homes as well as to maintain existing properties.

New consultation on future plans for housing and business sites in Babergh
Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils are consulting on a joint Local Plan for the two Districts. This is a chance for residents and businesses in both council areas to have their say on future planning. The recently adopted planning blueprint for Babergh has identified that 300 new homes should be built each year to fulfil demand across the District council’s area. Most of that development is scheduled to take place in the more urban areas – on the fringes of Ipswich and in Hadleigh and Sudbury, with larger villages also taking some development.
In Babergh there is an opportunity for people to comment on a range of issues including:
•    The redundant Brett Works site in Hadleigh, which has been the subject of a number of unsuccessful planning applications for a supermarket. Ideas for the future of the site are now being sought.
•    Unallocated land to the East of Sudbury, which is not currently part of the Chilton development plans
•    New policies on renewable energy sources like solar farms and on-shore wind turbines
•    Whether hamlets and small villages which are currently not permitted to have new dwellings should be allowed some small scale development where there is identified housing need.
The consultation is open until March 31st and is available at www.babergh.gov.uk/jointlocalplan

Scrutinising health issues
One of the tasks of local councils is to scrutinise health provision across Suffolk via the “Health Scrutiny Committee”.  Here are a few of the issues discussed at a recent meeting.

•    Hospitals under stress
Last summer plans were developed by health and social care providers in the County in order to cope with the pressure that arises in the winter due to increased levels of illness.
This year large numbers of older people are being admitted to hospital with chest infections, including pneumonia. Because of the age of the patients they frequently have other conditions as well. There can then be delays in discharging patients from hospital for a number of reasons. Over the years the number of beds in community hospitals has decreased with rooms instead being allocated in care homes for convalescence before patients return home. However these beds are not always available. In addition it is not always easy to reinstate home visits from carers after people come out of hospital. All this leads to extra time spent in acute hospitals like Ipswich and West Suffolk.
One of the problems this year is that the level of demand has led to a shortage of available convalescent beds in West Suffolk, in particular. With increasing numbers of older people should we be building more dedicated convalescent homes?

•    Community Health contract out to tender
Services such as District nursing and Occupational Therapy are currently being run by Serco. They are not intending to bid for the new contract. There are bids from East and West Suffolk hospital Trusts and a rival bid from Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Trust.

•    Care Quality Commission inspection of homes run by Care UK in Suffolk
In December 2012 Care UK took over the running of Suffolk County Council’s 16 care homes and 8 community wellbeing centres. They were required to replace these with 10 new care homes and 10 new community wellbeing centres.
Mildenhall Lodge opened in June last year. Just a few weeks later the council suspended new admission. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspected the home and declared that it was not complying with the required standards. This has meant that no new residents can be admitted. In July 2014 Asterbury Place opened on the Chantry estate in Ipswich. This replaced Angel Court in Hadleigh and the Hawthorn Drive care home. The council suspended new admissions to this home in October last year. The Scrutiny committee was told by Care UK that they were addressing the issues raised by the CQC and we await the outcome of subsequent inspections.
The committee was also told that only a third of the recommended number of staff had been employed by Suffolk County council to oversee the performance of the Care UK contract.

•    Role of Healthwatch Suffolk
Healthwatch Suffolk is a watchdog organisation which seeks to find out the views of Suffolk people about local health providers. This includes GP services. Their recent survey found that people wanted quicker access to GP appointments.  Their website is here:
If you would like to comment on local health services please contact them.

Message from the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) re speeding in towns and villages
Speeding remains a significant concern for local residents, evidence by a return of over 2000 responses to a recent survey. As a result there have been changes in speed enforcement procedures by the Police. Suffolk’s PCC Tim Passmore has asked us to publicise his wish that members of the public wanting to report speeding concerns should do so in the first instance to their local Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT), but they can also contact the PCC via his office and their concerns will be forwarded to the Constabulary. The SNT are already the point of contact for the Community Speed Watch which is an important initiative in relation to casualty reduction in areas that would not initially warrant police enforcement due to lack of Killed or Serious Incident (KSI) data.

Email: sue.carpendale@babergh.gov.uk    kathy.pollard@babergh.gov.uk

Published and promoted by E Da Costa on behalf of the Liberal Democrats all at 16 Two Acres, Capel St. Mary, Ipswich IP9 2XP

Report on Health Scrutiny committee Jan 14th 2014

The Health Scrutiny committee is made up of councillors from Suffolk County Council and each of the 7 District and Borough councils in the County. The papers are available here

At its last meeting there were three major items on the agenda:

  • Radical redesign of Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk

Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Trust has hit the headlines in recent days as the union Unison has lodged an official complaint about the “radical reorganisation” of services which is currently underway.

The Trust provides a range of mental health services including alcohol treatment, learning disability and eating disorder services. Due to growing demand and financial constraints – it has to make savings of £40m by 2016 – the Trust has had to look in a radical way at how it delivers its services.

In a story in the East Anglian Daily Times in late December Chairman of the Trust Gary Page commented on the changes:

“Gary Page did accept that some of the changes introduced by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust had caused unforeseen problems – and were being partially reversed.”

Health Scrutiny committee members were very concerned about this radical redesign of services when they first looked at the issue last year. The new bodies responsible for commissioning mental health services in Suffolk are also keeping a close watch on the performance of the Mental Health Trust. Here are links to some of the recent stories, including a website dedicated to highlighting the problems, which is run by a group of volunteers.

East Anglian Daily Times


Suffolk and Norfolk  website campaigning against changes

  • Suffolk Community Healthcare

On October 1st 2012 Serco took over as the new provider of community healthcare services in Suffolk. This is a three year contract. The contract is managed by the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning group (CCG) and West Suffolk CCG. These two bodies are the successors to NHS Suffolk, which was abolished in April 2013.

When Health Scrutiny first looked, in 2012, at the changes to be brought in by the new provider of community health services there were a number of concerns about reductions in the number of district nurses and occupational therapists. Serco seem to have taken these concerns on board and performance looks better – at least on paper!

The community equipment service is also experiencing problems with delays in providing equipment. This service is jointly provided by Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Community Health. We hope that the delays are now being addressed.

A representative from the West Suffolk CCG commented that Serco had taken over a poorly performing service. However  in December 2013 Suffolk Community Healthcare had met all its response time targets and views of patients were positive. Staff morale is still low – as it is across the rest of the NHS. Suffolk Community Healthcare employ 924 people and have now partnered with Bromley Healthcare, a social enterprise which is highly rated by staff.

  • Proposals for Liver Resection Services

NHS England (East Anglia) has been working on a project to implement a single specialist surgical centre for patients with liver metastases (secondary cancer of the liver). This centre would cover people living in Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and north Bedfordshire.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommends that a liver metastases service should cover a population base of at least 2 million people. This is to ensure that sufficient expertise is built up by the team involved. Reorganisation of such services is always controversial as it means that patients (and their relatives) have to travel further for treatment.

Changes to heart attack care, mental health and community health services

Notes on Health Scrutiny meeting 17th January 2013

 Emergency heart attack care

In 2009 a new specialised service was set up in the region for patients who suffer certain types of heart attack. These are known as STEMI heart attacks. The treatment centres are in Basildon, Norwich and Cambridge.

At these centres a Stent is inserted to reinflate the collapsed artery. Prior to that ambulance staff could administer thrombolysis, or clot-busting drugs. However these only worked in 50% of patients, whereas Stents are suitable for the vast majority and have better survival rates.

From the start there were major concerns about the length of time it would take to transfer a patient from rural East Suffolk. Results have been monitored since the change and, whilst survival rates were greater than 95%, the target transfer time of 150 minutes was exceeded for a quarter of patients. This could affect the longer term survival of patients.

The report to the Health Scrutiny committee recommended:

  • A programme of continuing education for ambulance staff in the management of cardiac emergencies.
  • National and regional campaigns to educate the public about the need to dial 999 as soon as possible if someone experiences chest pain. The sooner treatment is given the better.

New Heart Treatment centre at Ipswich hospital

A new £5m centre is being built at IpswichHospital for routine heart operations, including the insertion of Stents. There will be nurse specialists, a cardiac rehabilitation service and intermediate care clinics.

Concern over “Radical redesign” of Mental Health services

The combined Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Trust are having to make savings of 20% to their budget over the next 4 years. They are proposing a “radical pathway redesign” of their services. This seems to involve getting rid of a third of their doctors, including senior consultants! Instead nurses are to bear far more responsibility. Hospital bed numbers will also be reduced and there was mention in the report about using “bed and breakfast places”.

Representatives of the doctors and patients are extremely worried about the effect on patient care.

Some of the changes are to be welcomed – like closer working at local level with social services and other health colleagues as well as greater support for people in their own homes. However no risk assessment was included in the report.

A joint health scrutiny committee is to be set up with Norfolk to examine the Trust’s proposals in more detail.

Job cuts by new Community Healthcare provider?

Serco took over as the provider of Suffolk Community Healthcare on October 1st 2012. This contract was let by NHS Suffolk. Services which Serco now provide include community hospitals, community nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

Anecdotal information suggested that Serco were intending to reduce the number of physiotherapists and occupational therapists. They were reluctant to give any answers on this at the Health Scrutiny committee. They did hint, however, that they were looking again at their decisions! We wait to see what changes come out of this – if any.

Future items for the committee:

  • A task and finish group is to be set up to look into patient transport to Ipswich Hospital. A shortage of parking spaces and changes to the concessionary fare scheme have led to problems getting to appointments.
  • We have asked that the committee look into the provision of Epilepsy Services in Suffolk. Press reports indicate that this is far from satisfactory.
  • East of England Ambulance Service – the committee will look at performance and other issues.

No such thing as a quiet convalescence!

If I thought that somehow I would have a few quiet weeks after my hip replacement operation on January 25th this year, I must have been dreaming. While I was still in Addenbrookes, having mentioned that I was a Suffolk County Councillor, I was harangued by nursing staff about the Chief Executive’s salary and did I have anything to do with the closure of Bury Road Park and Ride? I explained that I had voted against the former and campaigned to save the latter!

As soon as I returned home preparations began again for the county council budget meeting on Feb 17th. I also took part in the Any Suffolk Questions broadcast prior to the budget meeting. The council meeting itself was gruelling, but I and my group were determined to put up a good fight on behalf of Suffolk people and to stand up for staff and frontline services. Of course the cannon fodder on the Conservative benches voted the budget through without question. They don’t seem to care that they are losing libraries, lollipop patrols, youth clubs, buses, household waste recycling centres, etc etc IN THEIR OWN AREAS. Am I mistaken in thinking that Andrea Hill is now in complete charge of the council? She sets the policy and Jeremy Pembroke et al just trot along meekly behind?

Yesterday I ventured back to church for the first time since my op. After the service, whilst trying to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee, and balancing on one crutch, I was told how disgusting “that woman’s” salary was – and this from a confirmed supporter of the Conservative party. It seems that the deeper the cuts, the more angry people become about the Chief Executive’s pay.

So my physical recovery continues – with grateful thanks to the skill of the medical staff at Addenbrookes. However it is difficult not to be really depressed about the way in which Suffolk County Council has gone about reducing its budget – especially as libraries were part of my responsibility from 2001 to 2005 – in more enlightened times.  I also championed the eXplore student travel card.

What we are seeing now in Suffolk reminds me of Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution. But instead of the people rising up and waving their little red books in support, we need more and more people to rise up and protest AGAINST these lunatic policies. Please add your support to the many e-petitions on Suffolk County Council’s website. Once the signatures on any petition pass 3,675 the subject HAS to be debated again by the council. The link is here

Bury Road Park and Ride closure and possible closure of residential care homes

Here is a list of some of the items for next week’s County Council Cabinet meeting (12th October): 

1. Annual Public Health Report concentrates this year on health inequalities, and outlines some case studies which are improving health in Suffolk.

2. The future of the council’s residential homes for older people – The Firs in Felixstowe is owned by the County Council, but run by the Anchor Trust. The council is proposing the sale of the freehold of this property. The council currently owns a further 16 homes. Six of these could close: (see Option 3 below): Lehmann House (Wickham Market), Ixworth Court (Ixworth), The Dell (Beccles), Wade House (Stowmarket), Davers Court (Bury St. Edmunds) and Paddock House in Eye. It looks like the other 10 could be sold as going concerns to the “Independent sector”. There are 3 options on offer: Option 1: Close ALL the homes and commission alternative services from the independent sector. Option 2: Sell all of the homes as going concerns. Option 3 Close a number of homes (those listed above) and transfer the remaining homes to the independent sector. There will be a 12 week consultation period and the issue will come back to the Cabinet in March next year. The paper implies that Option 3 is their preferred option. 

3. Closure of Holywells High School, Ipswich, which is scheduled to re-open as an Academy. This is not one of the new style of academies and has been planned for some time. There still seems to be opposition to this from parents.  

4. Transfer of responsibility for concessionary fares to the County Council from Districts and Boroughs. This is a national initiative. There are currently winners and losers amongst councils across the country. In Suffolk Ipswich has had to foot a £1m annual bill for running the scheme, whilst many Districts are actually making money out of the grant received from Government. 

5. Closure of Bury Road Park and Ride scheme. This was the second scheme to open on the outskirts of Ipswich. No individual figures have been given for this site, but it is a worrying development, and does not seem to marry with the Greenest County aspirations. I will be suggesting that they look at alternative ways of generating income: for example charging £1 for each car to park. Currently parking is free. Paying passengers could then pay £1 less for their bus ticket, but this would give the opportunity to raise income from over 60s, who currently travel free and, I’m sure, would rather keep the service and pay a small fee to park.  

6. Street lighting – proposals for part night lighting and dimming. Estimated savings are £390k per year. I don’t really have a problem with the concept. There will be exceptions where safety is an issue eg pedestrian underpasses, some road junctions, busy roads etc. Many villages have no street lights, nor do they want them. As far as I am aware there are no increased crime levels in those villages. Effective consultation is essential, however. 

7 Response to the Government’s consultation paper on the abolition of Primary Care Trusts and setting up of GP consortia. Also the establishment of Health and Wellbeing Boards. Unfortunately the Health Scrutiny committee was not asked for its views. Only Tory county councillors met to discuss this. This is very undemocratic as there are also 7 District and Borough reps on Health Scrutiny who were also excluded, as well as myself as the Lib Dem spokesperson. 

8. Closure of nursery classes due to the change in the admissions policy. From September 2011 all children of 4 and over are to be offered a full time reception place. This is a national initiative. The schools in the first phase where nursery class closures are being proposed are Ilketshall St Lawrence, Reydon, Britannia (Ipswich), Boxford, Clare, Hardwick (Bury St. Edmunds), Houldsworth Valley (Newmarket), Kedington, Rattlesden and Westgate (Bury St. Edmunds). A 6 week consultation period starts in October this year and a final decision will be made in April next year. All papers are available to view at http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=detail&id=1_14791

New Out of Hours health service in Suffolk

On April 1st responsibility for the Out of Hours doctors and dental service passes to Harmoni Healthcare. Yesterday I went to a presentation by the company at which various speakers outlined the way in which they will be implementing the service. The contract is for 5 years and will cover all of Suffolk except Waveney and the area covered by the Bildeston GP practice, which runs its own out of hours service. Five Suffolk GPs will be on the Board and the clinical lead post for the service in the County will be a job share between Dr. Roy Steiner from Ipswich and Dr. Chris Browning from Lavenham. There were a number of reassuring factors in the presentations which I outline below.The company was founded as a GP cooperative in 1996 and now provides support to more than 20 Primary Care Trusts with 7 million patients. They also run a number of GP led health centres, including one in Colchester.Their vision is to:

  • Treat patients as family
  • Treat staff as they would wish to be treated themselves  How do they select doctors? Given the concerns around the death of David Gray at the hands of Dr Ubani, the German locum, a number of members of the audience were anxious to find out how doctors working for the service would be selected and screened. At present the service in Suffolk relies to a great extent on agency doctors. Those who work directly for Harmoni are interviewed and clinically assessed. They have agreed that the agency will go through the same process. On the use of doctors from elsewhere in Europe, they stipulate that if doctors have EU medical qualifications that they are proficient in English and have a reference from a UK GP practice. They are aiming to encourage more local GPs to staff the service. Access to patient notes: One of the major concerns raised by members of the public is that out of hours doctors do not have access to their notes and medication records. Harmoni will have their own database which includes patient notes. It will be up to GPs to decide which of their patients is most likely to need the out of hours service and therefore whether they need to share information with the service. The database is web based system and GPs will be able upload patient notes. The system is encrypted for security and password protected. After Harmoni have seen a patient they will transfer the data to the patient’s GP by 8am the following morning. Every GP practice has been offered an individual visit to explain the service.  Locations: they are planning to set up a number of new bases as well as using existing centres like Wickham Market. The list is as follows: Ipswich Hospital fracture clinic, West Suffolk hospital fracture clinic, Walnutree hospital in Sudbury, the new Hartismere health centre, Newmarket community hospital, Wickham Market, Aldeburgh Community hospital, Felixstowe Community hospital. There will also be centres in Mildenhall and Stowmarket, but I am not sure of the locations of these. Riverside Centre in Ipswich will not be used. The call centre will be based at Ransomes Europark in a new building, where there will be meeting and training facilities, but no access for patients. Normally patients will ring their own GP practice and be transferred straight through. For dental services they will ring their own dental surgery (if they have one) and will be given a number to ring. If they have no dental surgery there will be an 0300 number to ring. Monitoring of quality of service: NHS Suffolk will have monthly meetings with Harmoni. They also have their internal performance indicators which are reported regularly to their regional director.In conclusion the company said they were determined to offer a better service than that provided by Take Care Now and my perception was that they seem to have the right values. As someone said after the meeting, however, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating!

Heart attack services in Suffolk

West Suffolk patients are transferred directly to a Heart Attack Centre (HAC) and receive primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PPCI). East Suffolk patients are treated according to the pilot pathways as recommended by Professor Boyle.

This matter will come back to Suffolk’s Health Scrutiny committee when the results of the pilot are known. The pilot has been extended as the number of people suffering STEMI heart attacks in East Suffolk is very small and a larger sample size will be needed to draw any conclusions. Following concerns about travel times to transfer patients from East Suffolk to either Norwich or Papworth, Professor Boyle’s recommendations were:

·        Pre-hospital thrombolysis to continue in east Suffolk but with transfer of the patient as quickly as possible to the nearest primary percutaneous intervention centre so that possible angioplasty could be undertaken as quickly as possible

·        Patients admitted to A&E at Ipswich Hospital should be thrombolysed but instead of admission to Ipswich, for the duration of the pilot, should be transferred urgently to the PPCI centre

·        Patients with STEMI who have a contraindication to thrombolysis should also be referred urgently for assessment at a PPCI centre

·        This pilot should run for three months (now extended)

·        Patients from West Suffolk should join the PPCI programme at Papworth without delay

·        After the three months there should be an external review of outcomes, travel times and patient acceptability. Professor Boyle offered to facilitate the review and to determine whether there were sufficient data at that point to assess the options for future service configuration. A longer period of assessment was identified as possibly being necessary if the number of cases was low.

·        Further recommendations related to NHS Suffolk leading an engagement process and also development of an information leaflet for members of the public.

Out of Hours patient care in Suffolk

At today’s Health Scrutiny committee we had further talks with NHS Suffolk who are still in discussion with Harmoni healthcare over the new contract for out of hours GP and dentistry services in the County. The new contract will start on April 1st. Harmoni will replace the current contractor Take Care Now who have hit the headlines in recent months on a range of issues from doctors failing to attend very ill patients to the death of a patient in Cambridgeshire who was given 10 times the normal dose of diamorphine by a German locum.We also discussed whether people could expect doctors to attend any of the nine designated centres like Wickham Market instead of travelling all the way to the Riverside Centre in Ipswich. People have a right to know what level of service they can expect. They also need to know how they can complain if the service falls short of expected standards.This is an ongoing issue as the committee still has not received answers to all the questions. The matter will come back to the next Health Scrutiny meeting on March 23rd when we will also be discussing progress with Hartismere hospital and Sudbury Health Centre.

 Here’s a link to a recent article on out of hours care by Libby Purves in The Times : http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/libby_purves/article6991696.ece