Dear Sir or Madam,

I took a sharp intake of breath when I read the article in the Shropshire Star 8/6/18 entitled, ‘Health boss praise over ‘brave’ call’.

The article featured the Future Fit consultation and various defensive comments made by Dr. Povey, Chair of Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group (SCCC). He referred to responses to Future Fit as ‘a lot of politics’; to ‘public noise’; ‘considerable political criticism’ and ‘vocal political campaigns’. Was this a clumsy attempt by him to signal what views are and are not acceptable? I presume he was referring to the joint open letter published in the Shropshire Star a few days earlier on 5/6/18, entitled ‘Future Fit: Labour chiefs call for complete rethink of Shropshire health plans’, written by Telford, The Wrekin, Shrewsbury and Atcham, Ludlow, North Shropshire and Montgomeryshire constituency Labour Parties.

In an unprecedented co-operative initiative, all six Constituency Labour Parties have rejected both inadequate options on offer and call for the controversial Future Fit proposals to be withdrawn leaving two A & E’s, both fully functioning hospitals and a call for the government to allocate fair funding for the NHS and social care in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin. If you look at all the facts, many of which are not available in the glossy brochures, breezy videos or pallid press releases, but tucked into CCG and SaTH Board Meeting Minutes, you’ll find that Future Fit is about cuts. We have had a decade of austerity that has put a funding squeeze on our NHS and Social Care. That shakes down to cuts in our local hospitals, primary, community and mental health services, midwife-led units, health visitors, school nurses and social care etc. which are now struggling to cope within their meagre budgets and at times are failing even to do that.

The local Labour Party’s response to the austerity that Future Fit symbolises, was achieved by undertaking months of democratic processes; through research, discussion, presentations, debate, the passing of motions, liaison, consultation and review. Is Dr. Povey seriously implying that ‘vocal political campaigns’ and well informed ‘political criticism’, such as those in the joint open letter referred to above, are what a healthy democracy should NOT be engaged in? You simply can’t take politics out of this ‘consultation’ because politics is what created austerity in the first place.

So, are local Labour Parties the ‘lobbying groups’ he is dismissing and discounting? I am writing on behalf of the Shrewsbury and Atcham Labour Party, Women’s Forum. Does he seek to discredit us and our views, in the way our grandmother and great grandmother Suffragettes were, when despite concerted and oppressive political opposition, the Suffragettes successfully campaigned for and eventually won the vote in 1918 and 1928? We too, are a group of women who are concerned citizens. Variously, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, daughters, partners, wives, carers, neighbours, friends, colleagues, workers and members of the general public. How can Dr. Povey so thoughtlessly seek to delegitimise our concerns in the article of 8/6/18, with some throwaway, quasi political, public relations branding? Is it because he and members of any CCG are unelected and therefore unaccountable to the public? Can such a closed system lead to a sense of entitled autonomy where the public should only expect at best, a token role in the ‘consultation’ process in order to defer to the legitimate ‘preferences’ of such bodies…because they know best?

The Labour Party and our NHS have a proud, entwined history. The NHS was founded by the Labour Party on 5th July, 1948, despite the active opposition of doctors. The country is celebrating the 70th anniversary of that momentous event but we cannot be complacent about its survival. So, as Dr. Povey, the two CCG’s, Simon Wright, CEO of SaTH and the SaTH Board will no-doubt ‘make a lot of public noise’ about celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the founding of our NHS next month, they should also bear in mind the following. They owe their jobs and roles; their professional training and experience; their salaries, expenses and pensions; their very births, health and those of their families to an imaginative, far sighted and socially progressive initiative that was created in 1948 by ‘a lot of politics’, in the Labour Party. Now that really is something to celebrate!

Let’s all join in celebrating 70 years of our NHS whilst remaining well informed and healthily sceptical of the claims for ‘Future Fit’.

Yours sincerely,

Jane Asterley Berry

Shrewsbury and Atcham Labour Party Women’s Forum

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