from the Chair

Happy New Year!

It is a well-known fact that this is the most risky time of the year for getting down in the dumps and eating too much with all the consequences of an increasing waistline. So, at the risk of adding to this seasonal low point I’m going to point out that we are currently facing one of the biggest shake ups of health and social care services we have seen for a long time. There are, thanks to ‘Austerity’ and the Tory government, major changes underway to try to stick back together the health and social care functions that were prised apart in the early 90s with, undoubtedly, massive associated costs, but all done in the name of cost savings and efficiency! So, for starters, we currently have a separate Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) for each of the four areas of health commissioning in West Berkshire, but as from 1st April there will be only one, just like there was a few years ago before Andrew Lansley’s reforms broke them up so that they could be more efficient! Well, I expect you are thinking, yes, but how will that affect us mere patients and service users at the end of the day.

Well, in an immediate context, but a long way down the chain of consequences, it means that Reading Mencap will lose our CCG funding for our Getting it Right in Reading Health project, which helps people with learning disability to get their vital Annual Health Checks and to access health services. This cut in funding was not only justified in the name of saving money but it was also announced that our project didn’t meet CCG criteria as well as it could have! But as they haven’t actually published the full details of what they actually have funded, it is hard to tell if there is going to be anyone helping our service users to get their Health Checks in future. So we have asked our local MP, Matt Rodda to help us to get some transparency here and we look forward to finding out what he discovers.

Meanwhile, under the table, and while no one was looking, Jeremy Hunt was planning to quietly put private companies, in charge of the new ‘stuck back together CCGs’ and other health services like the Royal Berks and Social Care called, in the new jargon, ‘Accountable Care Organisations’ so he could finish the job he started in 2010 to privatise the NHS. Thank heavens there are some brilliant doctors around to take him to Judicial Review, and a surprisingly persistent Tory MP, Sarah Wollaston, to spike Jeremy’s guns and stop him in his tracks. Now he has to eat humble pie and put out a major public consultation about it. So watch out for that.

And on an even more nail biting subject, in early February, we will hear if we have won back our local authority funding for our clubs and activities. But, even if we have, we already know that we have lost our respite funding for carers events and trips. This is because our partner in our current contract told us, just before Christmas, that they were not looking to partner with us this time around, knowing that we had no time to find a new partner before the bids for funding closed. We have provided events for carers for over 30 years but May 2018 will see the end of that work. Such is the cause and effect of austerity and the unhealthy idea of making charities bid against each other for their funding.