Today we have learnt about excellent news that seven day a week GP access will be expanded in Hammersmith and Fulham. This programme has been supported and funded by this Government, and yesterday the Chancellor announced in the autumn statement that GP services are to get £1.2bn in extra funds from bank fines, in addition to the additional £2bn funding for the NHS. This will help to improve access to primary care, including at the weekend and also help to relieve pressure from A&Es and other health services.
You would have learnt about this news if you received the press release from the NHS, or if you read this blog. Unfortunately you would not have heard through any of the council’s communication channels, which has a much greater reach.
I wonder why that is?
The council has a direct responsibility for integration of healthcare, social care and public health through the Health & Wellbeing Board. The council provides and commissions social care and as of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 has direct responsibility and holds the budgets for public health.
Why therefore are the only stories we hear from the Labour Council attacking the NHS, and its proposals that Drs believe will save 100s of lives a year. By all means criticise, scrutinise, campaign against these proposals – that was a key election theme for Labour in May – but do not neglect your responsibilities to make residents aware of positive health stories and public health messages.
I have written to the new interim chief executive, Nigel Pallace to ask him to ensure that council communications are responsible and meet the civil service code. The content of these messages are not politically impartial, as they should be, and a few months ago even saw the council twitter feed retweet a message by the British National Party, which they subsequently deleted. I have included my letter to Nigel Pallace here.
At last night’s health and adult social care scrutiny meeting one item we discussed was raised as an emergency by my colleague Cllr Joe Carlebach. This was on the poor uptake of the under 5 flu vaccine in this borough. Questions were asked of the local Clinical Commissioning Group and GPs in H&F, but Cllr Carlebach and I both questioned the council’s role with regard to its responsibility for overseeing vaccination programmes and public health in general. Cllr Carlebach and I, with the rest of the committee, have asked for a plan to be put together as a matter of urgency.
We would like to see the council be more proactive in publicising public health messages such as this, and many other programmes, such as the HPV vaccination programme, uptake of which we found out yesterday to be the eight worse area in the country.
I do not wish to scare residents unnecessarily nor use hyperbole, however in the case of serious health conditions such as influenza and cervical cancer, it is not an exaggeration to say that lives are at risk. The council has a responsibility for public health and an opportunity to make residents more aware of public health messages. I hope it will now do so.