“Dear Ms Hattie Llewelyn-Davies, Chairman of Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust
I watched the recording of the Trust’s AGM yesterday. At the end of the meeting you thanked members of the public who had taken the time to watch. You also asked if they could provide feedback as this was the first time the Trust had held a virtual AGM and the Trust would like to improve the experience for the public in future.
So I thought I would provide some feedback.
Perhaps I should explain that I take a keen interest in healthcare in Bucks (although I have taken a break since the coronavirus outbreak) and I am active in the community and in local politics (although not a member of any political party). My views are my own.
I should also say my feedback is intended to help. Like you, I am immensely grateful for the hard and courageous work of the NHS staff not least because they now face the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus going into the winter while running hard to cope with outstanding non-COVID cases. I would only hope the NHS gets the resources it needs and staff are shown the public’s appreciation by a much deserved increase in their wages.
My main purpose in looking at the recording was to find out the answers to the questions asked by Ozma Hafiz, a campaigner for Save Wycombe Hospital. My first problem was I could not find an agenda for the meeting so had no idea when the item would be reached. I therefore had to watch (or rather skim) the entire meeting because the item was at the end.
My impression from this skimming was of a well-orchestrated, professional set piece. It seemed the whole purpose of the AGM was to reassure the public that everything was going as well as could be expected – and everyone speaking from the Trust knew their lines.
To give some examples:
• The AGM showed two videos which I can only describe as promotional;
• the Finance Director said things were getting better, although this seemed to be based on the fact that the Trust was only £29 million in the red in 2019/20 rather than £32 million in the red the previous year; and
• the Trust’s performance was apparently fine, although I couldn’t see the actual numbers because the relevant slide was unfocussed and I couldn’t read it.
I am sure that the Trust has problems but I never found out what they were. I am sure mistakes have been made but they were never mentioned. I can understand that the Trust wants to reassure the public. However, I can’t be the only one who is not reassured when all I am given is a rosy picture. I would be far more reassured if the Trust was honest and explained what was happening, warts and all.
Similarly, here are what I think were the answers to Ozma’s questions.
On PPE and protecting vulnerable staff, we were told that all staff have been offered a risk assessment and nearly all have taken up the offer. Everyone had appropriate PPE and had even been offered face coverings for outside the hospital if, for example, they used public transport. The Trust was supporting staff who had to shield at home and staff were being supported by the occupational health team.
So once again, only a reassuring message – no problems worth mentioning.
On plans for the community hospitals at Wycombe, Amersham, Buckingham, Marlow, Thame, Chalfont and Stoke, we were told that the Trust was running a community survey to find out what was working well and what improvements were needed.
We were also told the Trust had no plans to develop the Amersham site for housing and no plans to re-open beds at Marlow and Thame for COVID rehabilitation (or anything else).
It was good to hear that the Amersham site was definitely not to be developed for housing (which begs the question as to why its development is in the South Bucks local plan) but not good to learn that beds at Marlow and Thame were not re-opening. And I have to ask why the Trust gave no information about the other community hospitals.
Finally, I was surprised to hear the Trust was running a community survey. Are you really sure the middle of a pandemic is the best time to be asking residents about the healthcare service they would like? I am possibly more clued up than most residents about what is going on, particularly on healthcare, and I was totally unaware of the survey. So how on earth are residents who are not linked into social media and are keeping their distance from their neighbours going to find out about the survey?
Moreover, in the middle of a pandemic many residents will have lowered their expectations of what they expect from the NHS. Many, like me, are just glad to be alive and will accept remote services because this is an emergency. But ask residents next year and you might well get a different answer – and by then the emergency service could have become the norm.
Ozma was kind enough to point me to the BC Facebook link to the survey and I could see that there so many concerns, including:
• residents prevented by the survey form from giving the answers they want to give;
• survey questions which lead residents to answers which they think the Trust wants
• restricted choices in the answers so residents cannot choose the one they want
• residents not understanding who is responsible for the survey – the Trust or BC or GPs or who?
• residents excluded from the survey because they are not “tech savvy”
• residents with dementia and other conditions excluded from the survey
• residents choosing not to respond to the survey because they don’t trust the Trust (or the Government) to listen to, or do anything about, residents’ views.
• residents believing the Trust has already decided what it is going to do i.e. cuts in services and is using the survey to justify those decisions.
So I have to ask whether the responses will be representative of residents’ views and what reliance the Trust can put on the results of the survey?
I hope this feedback is helpful to the Trust. I will probably put it on my blogsite and I am happy to blog any response you might provide".