CAMPAIGNERS from the “Save our Local NHS“ campaign attended the Hedon Town Council meeting last night.
Dressed in T-shirts branded with the group’s name, they had come as observers to highlight issues faced by rural GP practices suffering funding cuts, and to witness a request by Councillor Sarah Rommell to get the council’s endorsement of a petition so that more people are aware of it, and have an opportunity to sign – specifically to request that they are made available in the local GP surgeries.
The petition ‘Save our Rural GP Surgeries’, was started by Councillor Rommell in Hedon – but is receiving support from across the region. It asks people to sign up to express their disagreement at Government cuts in funding that will impact on rural GP services.
Councillor Rommell was hoping that the local GP surgeries would allow the petitions to be made available in practice waiting rooms so that patients could sign. However, in the case of Hedon Group Practice, which has a policy of not allowing such campaigning materials on site, this has not been allowed. It is understood that a civic endorsement of the petition might be looked on more favourably by the Practice when determining whether to allow it into the surgery.
Councillor Rommell, stated: “Hedon Group Practice asked for Hedon Town Council’s endorsement of the petition. That is why it was brought to the council table.”
Following an exuberant discussion at council it was agreed by a recorded vote to endorse the petition and write to both GP surgeries in Hedon informing them of that fact.
We the undersigned disagree with the Governments plans to withdraw the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee (MPIG) over a seven-year period, beginning in April. MPIG means many smaller GP practices are guaranteed a minimum level of funding that is not dependent on the number of patients on their list. According to the British Medical Association the cut in funding will be detrimental to rural practices, causing at least 98 GP practices to be in danger of closing. The resultant damage to the NHS rural GP structure will leave many patients without local GP practice which we find unacceptable.
Politics – or not – of the petition?
The decision was taken despite advice given to the Town Clerk, Mrs Joanna Richardson, by ERNLLCA that such an endorsement might be deemed ‘political’ (ERNLLCA is an independent body of which the council is a member; it provides guidance on all matters relating to the functioning of a parish or town council).
The support proffered by ERNLLCA is advisory only, but it suggested that the use of the Hedon Town Council’s corporate name in connection with any petition which criticises Government policy is political. The Town Clerk noted that individual councillors have – and do – get involved with lots of petitions and protests, but for Hedon Town Council to make a corporate decision on such matters is very different.
Whilst not a single voice on the Hedon Town Council was raised against the wording of the petition, there were concerns expressed that the council’s declared ‘non-political’ stance would be affected.
Councillor John Dennis said he sympathised with the petitioners and the situation facing GP practices, but would abstain on any vote as it might be seen as setting a precedent implying the council gets involved in politics. Councillor Gordon Thurston suggested that the council should be happy to note the petition and express its serious concerns about the disadvantage facing GP surgeries, but should not endorse the petition.
“The only thing being asked for, is that the petitions be allowed into the surgeries”
Councillor Brenda Goldspink supported endorsing the petition saying that it was such an important issue, with the situation facing rural surgeries set to get even worse. She read out in full an article in the Hull Daily Mail on the matter featuring the comments of local BMA representative and a doctor at Hedon Group Practice, Dr Andrew Green.
Councillor Neil Black expressed similar concerns about the impacts of reduced funding on local communities, he urged support for the petition and said that it was not incumbent on the council to accept the ERNLLCA advice. Councillor David Thompson said that he endorsed the concerns regardless of politics and political affiliations.
“The only thing being asked for, is that the petitions be allowed into the surgeries” said Councillor Tom Goldspink.
A recorded vote was taken on a motion to endorse the petition:
For: Sarah Rommell, Di Storr, David Thompson, Colin Billany, Brenda Goldspink, Tom Goldspink, Neil Black
Against: Terry West, Gordon Thurston
Abstain: John Dennis, Alan Marshall
Resolved: to endorse the petition and write to both GP surgeries in Hedon informing them of that fact.
Following the vote, campaigner Lyn Longbottom from Hull, said: “We’ve always had a good response from the people of Hedon when campaigning on the NHS. I’m really pleased with tonight’s decision.” And on the debate: “It’s been good to see how they do things in a small council – it’s all very different in Hull!”
Note: The above is taken from observing the meetings at the Hedon Town Council and should not be taken as any official notice of decisions by Hedon Town Council. For further information contact Hedon Town Council.