NHS Trusts Accountability Debate

11th July 2018

Hemel Hempstead MP Sir Mike Penning led a debate yesterday on the issue of accountability of NHS Trusts.

Sir Mike won the debate in a ballot and used the opportunity to raise numerous local examples where people feel let down by the multitude of NHS Trusts and related organisations that are responsible for the provision of healthcare in Hemel Hempstead and the surrounding area.

Highly paid Chief Executives have been appointed on salaries more than twice that of the Prime Minster, failed to provide and then moved on to new highly paid positions elsewhere in the NHS, sometimes without the jobs being advertised, a real “jobs for the boys” culture.

Consultations have not been held, or held retrospectively only to be ignored. Sir Mike said:

“Frankly, most consultations are a sham. The decisions are made before they consult. They make the decision to close, put it in their budgetary regime and then consult. They then come out and say, “We’ve listened to the consultation and we are going to ignore you.” So what is the point of the consultation?”

Speaking about the Save the Hospital campaign, Sir Mike said:

“We managed to get the money together to go to judicial review—a lot of money; in excess of £60,000—and the judge said, “You have a moral case. You have an ethical case. I agree with you, but you don’t have a case in law because all the powers are with the trust and the PCT”, as it was then.” 

Sir Mike concluded his speech with:

“I am a loyal member of the Conservative party. I was a Minister for seven years in seven Departments, and I was on the Front Bench in opposition for four and a half years. I have to ask myself why I am supporting a Government who are allowing my constituents to be ignored. The Minister must not take this personally, but the present situation is crazy. The Department of Health and Social Care—I was not in that Department, but I have been in many others—actually has very little control over what is going on out there in our wonderful NHS. We have inspections, my local hospital goes into special measures and then comes out of them, it gets into debt and then comes out of it. However, the truth in my part of the world is that if NHS management are not accountable to Ministers or to me as their MP—and, much more importantly, are not accountable to the people whom they are supposed to be looking after—we have a serious problem. If my constituents cannot come to me and express their concern about what is going on in the NHS, there is a serious problem with our democracy, and that is something that I cannot live with.”

Speaking afterwards, Sir Mike said:

“These Trusts take us for fools and we have absolutely no way to hold them to account. The Department for Health seems to be at a loss on how to deal with it. I am sorely disappointed in the response to the issues I raised. The Minister just spouted standard civil service answers in the most part.

“I was left fuming when he attempted to suggest we didn’t need a new hospital locally because there was already a new hospital being built in our local STP. The STP is a typical example of the NHS bureaucracy tying itself up in knots – the Hertfordshire and West Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, or STP (derogatorily known as Sticky Toffee Puddings) is of no relevance to any normal person living in Hemel Hempstead. The fact that a new hospital is being built in Harlow – which is what the Minister talked about – is of no help to us in Hemel. Utter madness. It is nothing short of an insult.”

“If nothing else, this experience has encouraged me to put in for more and more of these debates to see if we can get some sense out of the Department for Health. I really think that they have little understanding of what is really going on in the numerous NHS organisations on the ground.

“Local people – not just here, but all over the country - must have their voices heard.”

“Watch this space..!”

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