Summary:  Stroud Against the Cuts have written to Gloucestershire Care Services raising serious concerns about proposals to change the way District Nurses work in the county. Staff have told Stroud Against the Cuts they are deeply worried about the changes, which may mean District Nurses working in isolation from each other and their colleagues, jeopardising both their safety and professional standards. Campaigners will attend the next board meeting of Gloucestershire Care Services, which will be held in the Old Town Hall, High Street, Stroud, GL5 1AP on November 12th at 9.30am, and which members of the public can attend.

Gloucestershire Care Services – the body which provides community health services in Gloucestershire, set up after local campaigners prevented such services being privatised –  has proposed changes to the way District Nurses work. The changes are currently subject to a staff consultation but a number of staff have told campaigners they feel their voices are not being heard. District Nurses have told SATC that under the changes they will no longer work from local health clinics, but will be expected to work in their cars between patients. Staff have already begun to raise concerns anonymously with the local press [4]. Campaigners also point to government plans to sell off ‘underused’ parts of the NHS estate, and question whether moving District Nurses out of health clinics, is a step towards this.

Caroline Molloy, one of Stroud Against the Cuts’ volunteer co-ordinators, said “We are worried about the attitude of Gloucestershire Care Services – when nurses raised concerns about working alone in their cars on dark country lanes, they were told to work in Costa Coffee, which is utterly inappropriate for entering confidential patient data. We have been told that nurses are so unhappy they are leaving – this loss of experienced nurses is not something the NHS can afford. We hear a lot these days about ‘integrating’ healthcare with social care, and we understand these plans are part of these proposals. But these plans seem to take some of the worst aspects of social care – isolated staff like home helps, with far less opportunity for professional support and interaction – and apply them to our NHS nurses.”

In the letter to Gloucestershire Care Services campaigners ask 7 questions:

1.    Have they considered the clinical impact, particularly on professional development and standards, of staff not having a fixed base where they can interact with other clinicians?

2.    What impact will the changes have on plans to keep open – or close/sell off – NHS clinics?

3.    Why have they not consulted patients about this substantive change to NHS services?

4.    How have they involved patients in the planning of this change, in line with their legal duties under the NHS Constitution?

5.    Have they done the legally required risk assessments?

6.    Have they involved staff in them?

7.    Have they considered the impact on equality for patients and staff?

Stroud Against the Cuts spent two weeks trying to get the County’s Health & Overview Scrutiny Committee, the group of councillors responsible for scrutinising NHS decisions in Gloucestershire to ask these questions, but has been told by the Chair, Labour Cllr Stephen Lydon, that he is not yet ‘convinced there is an issue’ and that raising these questions is not the role of Scrutiny. Chris Moore, another co-ordinator of SATC, said “This is strange and unhelpful as Scrutiny has raised questions about NHS services in the past. We will continue to strive to get answers and will support any action that staff and/or their unions wish to take.”



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