Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Clinical Commissioning Groups: Local bodies that need to be held to account by local people

Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) control how our money is spent in our local hospitals but few people know what they do or how they can be held accountable. This concerns Keep Our St Helier Hospital Party (KOSHH Party) candidates for Merton and Sutton enormously.

“The future of St Helier Hospital is not in its own hands - it is South West London CCGs who make the big decisions,” says Frances Cornford, who is running as a KOSHH Party candidate in the Sutton West ward. “The CCGs have to make £370m in cuts across SW London and their strategy won’t be revealed until June or July - after the local elections.”

Does anyone know what CCGs are supposed to do?

CCGs are local bodies tasked with spending our money on our hospitals. This system can only be effective if the CCGs are transparent, the members of CCGs have no conflicts of interest, such as financial interests in private healthcare providers, and if their meetings are held in public, times, dates and agendas widely publicised and they are held at times which allow large numbers to attend.

Click here for a link to the SW London CCG's website, representing CCGs from Merton, Sutton, Croydon, Kingston, Richmond and Wandsworth. If you scroll down to the bottom of the homepage, you can find links to the six CCG's websites and from there, you will then have to go through each individual website to find dates and times. Why does the SW London CCG website not act as a one-stop shop with a calendar of events for all its CCGs? 

The SW London CCG response to this is: "CCGs are independent statutory bodies and advertise their own meetings on their own sites." But the SW London CCG website is used to share information on behalf of all CCGs on other matters. So why not CCG meeting times? Curiouser and curiouser...

Meeting times and dates seldom, if ever, appear in the local press, let alone on the SW London CCG website. This simply isn't good enough.

Does anyone know when their local CCG is next meeting?

The Sutton CCG was meant to be meeting today, Wednesday 7 May, at 2pm. However, this has been postponed until June 18. As far as we know, the location will still be Priory Crescent, Sutton SM3 8LR and it will still be held at 2pm but it is difficult to find out information about any CCG meeting. 

KOSHH Party candidates are dismayed that meetings are poorly publicised by CCGs and the timings are inconvenient.

“Holding a meeting at 2pm on a weekday means many people will be unable to attend, such as those who work full time or are looking after their young children during the day,” says David Murray, KOSHH Party candidate for Wallington South.  

So how come Surrey Downs CCG manages to be more accessible?

KOSHH Party candidates were interested to learn that Surrey Downs CCG, which publicly broke away from the failed Better Service, Better Value review, will be holding a public event in conjunction with Epsom and Ewell Conservatives on Tuesday 10 June at 7.30pm.

“This shows it is possible for CCGs to hold events in the evening when more people can attend,” says Dave Ash, KOSHH Party candidate for Cheam. “Why won’t our local CCGs learn from Surrey Downs and hold meetings at times when people are likely to be able to attend? Why would they make it difficult for so many people to attend?”.

What can local councillors do about all this?

There is no reason why local councillors cannot play an important part in lobbying CCGs in defence of our local health services. 

If elected, KOSHH Party councillors will lobby local CCGs to better publicise their meeting times and venues and encourage more meetings in evenings and on weekends so that a broader cross-section of the community can attend. 

We will lobby for CCG meeting times to be advertised in all GP surgeries across Merton and Sutton.

We will also continuously lobby CCGs for greater transparency, constantly remind them of the importance of preserving all vital services at St Helier Hospital, attend CCG meetings and publicly report on the meetings' outcomes. 

We urge all candidates to join us in these promises.

Photography by Petr Kratochvil

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