YEP Letters: July 24

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Check out today’s YEP letters.

Crucial stage for heart patients

Councillor Peter Gruen, Chair, Scrutiny Board (Adult Social Service, Public Health, NHS)

As the new chair of Leeds’ Health Scrutiny Committee and the Yorkshire and Humber Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JHOSC), I write in relation to NHS England’s earlier decision that will impact on the future provision of congenital heart disease services across Yorkshire and the Humber.

Although not previously a member of the JHOSC, I have observed the progress of the previous Safe and Sustainable Review of Children’s Congenital Cardiac Surgery Services since 2011 and the new Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) review since 2013.

I would like to pay tribute to each of the former chairs and all members (past and present) of the joint scrutiny committee for their dedication and significant contributions since March 2011.

I feel it is important not to forget – and indeed recognise – the significant impact of the joint scrutiny committee’s work in influencing and informing the High Court’s ruling that quashed the decisions of the previous Safe and Sustainable Review.

Without the dogged determination of former chairs and members of the joint scrutiny committee, I think congenital heart disease services across Yorkshire and the Humber would almost certainly be in a very different place today.

I understand the general consensus has been that NHS England’s revised ‘standards based approach’ has been the right one. Given NHS England has now agreed these standards and the model of care, I would agree with NHS England’s assessment that this represents a watershed moment and marks the end of the review as a piece of policy work, and the start of a process of implementation.

Nonetheless, significant questions remain and, as suggested by the report considered by NHS England, a number of matters are yet to be fully resolved, including:

How will the multi-centre networks operate in practice and will the damage to relationships between surgical centres (caused by the previous Safe and Sustainable Review) be too big an obstacle to overcome? Are the proposed multi-centre networks and creation of ‘virtual’ surgical centres simply a means of blurring the lines of standards that relate to the number of surgeons and procedures per surgical centre? To what extent have all the recommendations of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel been addressed?

Are the standards truly affordable and how will commissioners address the different financial pressures among providers caused by historical funding patterns?

To what extent will the number of current centres where surgery is performed be reduced and how will local stakeholders – in particular patients and families – be involved in the implementation phase of the review? How will regional/ local commissioners fulfil their statutory responsibilities and engage with local authority health scrutiny committees during implementation? So, as we move from modelling and planning future services to implementation, I believe we are perhaps entering the most crucial stage for patients and families. I fully intend to ensure the JHOSC maintains an overview of progress to help ensure patients and families across Yorkshire and the Humber have access to and receive the high quality services defined by the agreed standards.

PCSOs are highly valued

Temporary Chief Constable Dee Collins, West Yorkshire Police

I can understand that people will be concerned about the suggestions made in yesterday’s media coverage about the future of PCSOs in West Yorkshire.

I want to be absolutely clear that they remain a highly valued and integral part of our policing plans both now and in the years ahead.

The feedback that we often receive from our communities and partners, really underlines the importance of their role and the difference they make in keeping the most vulnerable safer and feeling safer. It is a reality, however, that the organisation will have to reduce in size as we face significant reductions to our budget.

As part of the Government austerity measures, the Force must still find in the region of £2m before the end of the 2015-2016 financial year. A further £23.3m must then be delivered up to 2017. This is why we took early steps in November 2014 to freeze the intakes of PCSOs and minimise the potential of any job losses later down the line. Looking ahead, we will not be able to sustain the current numbers of PCSOs.

Officers have key role

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner

Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) play a very important role in helping to keep people safe and feeling safe, I remain as committed as ever to ensuring they remain a key part of the neighbourhood policing model.

Despite the severe cuts imposed by government which will mean West Yorkshire Police’s budget will have reduced by 30 per cent by 2016/17, I have always done everything I can to protect neighbourhood policing, of which PCSOs play a key role with police officers and partners. I have also recently restated my commitment to the model of Neighbourhood Policing despite some other PCCs withdrawing support for visible policing within our communities. That isn’t my view or that of the public we serve.

Protecting neighbourhood policing is a key priority in my Police and Crime Plan and that is why I made a firm guarantee that funding for PCSOs would remain protected until 2016 and therefore I ring-fenced £17.8m a year of core police funding to continue to pay for PCSOs across the county. It is vital that I work very closely with key partners, of which local councils are one, to make communities safer and feeling safer and PCSOs play a vital role in ensuring that.

Like the police, the local councils and other key partners are having to contend with severe Government cuts. I am working closely with council leaders to secure matched funding going forward. However, the Home Office as an ‘unprotected’ department, which includes policing, will potentially have to find up to another 40 per cent of cuts over the next four years on top of what has already been cut. This will make it very difficult to maintain the current levels, but there will be still a substantial number of PCSOs as part of our Neighbourhood Policing Teams over coming years.