• Minutes save lives

    A little while ago I blogged about emergency helicopter landings at Queen Alexandra Hospital. Now Portsmouth Hospitals Trust has applied to Portsmouth City Council to remove the restriction on night landings at the hospital.

    Image courtesy of John Ambler

    At the risk of repeating what I said before, I cannot stress how important it is that this ridiculous restriction is removed. We would never dream of saying that standard ambulances could not arrive at the hospital after 6pm or that they were banned from using their lights or sirens.

    Dr Richard Jones, a consultant cardiologist and Chief of Medicine at Queen Alexandra Hospital summed up the case perfectly in The News a couple of weeks ago, he said: ‘Helicopters are mainly used by heart attack patients. When someone’s having a heart attack time is critical so it’s important they get here quickly and sometimes that means needing a helicopter. Changing the restrictions on landings could save lives.’

    I urge everyone to go on to the Portsmouth City Council website and make a comment supporting the application by clicking here.

    If you want to stay up-to-date with the excellent campaign set up by Richard Inskip to support night landings at QA you can join the Facebook group here.

  • Will Purvis outside Brent Court

    The importance of independent living

    Today Councillor Leo Madden officially opened Brent Court, a £12 million extra care facility in Milton. Housing for older people might not sound like the most interesting or exciting of subjects, but it’s all too easy to miss how important this kind of housing is.

    Image courtesy of Calford Seaden

    Most older people want to stay living in their own home. This doesnt usually just mean the exact house they own, it means living in their local community, amongst their family and friends and most importantly, living independentally. Unfortunately, as people get older and their needs for care and support increase this can be extremely difficult to manage.

    I know this from my own family experience. As my father got more and more ill it became increasingly difficult to provide him with the level of care he needed to stay in our family home. Even with the help of our whole family and professional carers, it was a constant struggle to give him a comfortable environment where he felt safe and secure and with the support on hand whenever he needed it. The last thing he wanted was to ‘go in to a care home’. Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that there are wonderful care homes out there, I admit I have little experience of them myself, but my father was determined that he did not want to go in to one. So we had to battle on supporting him as long as we could until his medical needs outstripped our ability to care for him at home.

    So what is so special about Extra Care? Well firstly its not a care home. It is purpose built apartments, designed esecially for the needs of older people and with care and support on hand. It means that older people can stay living in their ‘own home’ independently but with the care and support there whenever they need it. Having the prper facilities there to support carers makes a huge difference and with communal facilities as well residents don’t have to feel isolated. By building this sort of accomodation in our local area older people can stay livng in their local community wih their friends and family as a support network around them and the professional care standing by whenever they need it.

    Some people may ask why this matters to them? Some people have even said that the last thing we need is more flats in Milton. But think about this for a moment…

    Many older people currently live in larger properties, maybe 3 or 4 bedroom but use only 1, because this has been their family home. As these people downsize to move into this specialist accommodation they free up the larger properties desperately needed by families in our area.  On top of this, older people are less likely to drive cars, or at least to do so infrequently. This reduces traffic and actually benefits local business as they tend to prefer not to travel to shop.

    Whether you see it as a moral imperitive to support the older generation, whether you want to see housing stock freed up or whether you think that it will benefit the local economy, it is difficult not to see the benefits of Extra Care accommodation to the whole local community. So, exciting it may not be, but this development opening is an important step for our community!

  • Helicopter landings at QA


    Photo courtesy of John Ambler

    Unfortunately a row has erupted about emergency helicopter landings at Queen Alexandra Hospital here in Portsmouth. Rachel Hawthorn at The News has written an article about this which can be found here. I thought I should write a short explanation of the the issue as it is something I have been aware of for some time and have actively encouraged the hospital to resolve.

    Some time ago, the subject of emergency helicopter landings at the hospital was raised at a Public Board Meeting at the hospital, which I attended. It immediately caught my attention as it seemed absurd that helicopters were being diverted to Southampton costing both time and money. In talking to the Dr Richard Jones, the chief of medicine at QA, it did not appear that there was actual evidence of anyone’s life having yet been endangered by the delay in time that this caused, but it was not something that can be ruled out.

    Now, I appreciate the concerns of some local residents who live close to the hospital that they’re disturbed by the noise but I am afraid that I simply do not support their objection to allowing helicopters to land at the hospital at night. We would never dream of saying that standard ambulances could not arrive at the hospital after 6pm or that they were banned from using their lights or sirens. Quite simply, where the life of any individual is at risk, and particularly in cases where time is of the essence in receiving  treatment, that must take the priority over any other concerns. I trust medical professionals to make the right decision about where any patient should be transported to and I trust the ambulance service to do that with minimum disruption where possible.

    We are after all only talking about one out of hours landing a week or a fortnight!

    I am pleased that Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the Leader of Portsmouth City Council, has also supported this view saying; ‘If you’ve got a hospital and a helipad which is used in an emergency, then use it’.

    I encouraged members of the Board to seek planning permission from the council to allow helicopter landing whenever and I will continue to support them in this. I await their planning application and I will try to be at any planning meeting that this goes to, to speak in support of allowing helicopter landings at the hospital whenever necessary!

  • PFI Profits

    Private companies are raking in huge profits from the Private Finance Initiatives on hospitals across the country, including the Queen Alexandra Hospital here in Portsmouth. And at what cost?

    As these companies make profits of 54% in less than 18 months (compared to an average of 5% profit on a standard construction project) at the expense of the taxpayer, they take the profits off-shore to avoid paying tax!

    BBC Radio 4’s award-winning documentary series File on 4 has produced an excellent expose of this scandal.

    I was pleased to contribute just a small part to this programme on he human cost to patients.

    You can download a podcast of the program from here

  • Government review to report

    Today the Government’s Independent Reconfiguration Panel will report to the Health Secretary on their review of the closure of the G5 end-of-life care ward.

    willg5The report is not made public immediately, it can take up to a month.

    I look forward to reading the report and I hope that they have taken note of the serious concerns raised by patients, their families and staff at the hospital.

    When making substantial changes to care the hospital must always consult the public.

    I hope that the report will recommend that a full public consultation takes place and that the G5 ward should be reopened – at least while any new model of care is trialled first to see how it compares.

    I will be writing to the Health Secretary to re-iterate the strength of public opinion against the closure of the G5 ward and calling on him to carefully consider the details of the panel’s report as the decision about what action, if any, should be taken ultimately lies with him.

    (Photo courtesy of The News, Portsmouth)

  • Fencing & hospital finances!

    Apologies for the slight delay in writing this up, but I have been away in Paris participating and refereeing in a fencing competition.

    Hard as it may be to believe, I do have quite an active life outside of politics and campaigning on local issues! I have actually been fencing since I was 11 years old and I used to captain the team while I was at University. I try to find the time to regularly go back and coach there and occasionally at other local clubs. I benefitted, when I was younger, from many great people volunteering their time to help teach me, so it is only right that I take time out to help pass that on!

    190369_686570722472_286106542_9561108_981630_nOn a slightly more serious note, a few of you may have seen me on South Today last week during the piece on finances at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham.

    I have been highlighting the financial difficulties of the Hospital Trust for some time and I am delighted that this is an issue that is now being taken up with the Health Secretary by the local MP.

    Last year the Hospital Trust finished the financial year with a £14.9m deficit and this year they will be dependent on a huge cash injection of £6m from local health partners to avoid ending another financial year with a massive deficit. 

  • Taking the G5 petition to the Hospital

    willg5YESTERDAY I handed over a copy of petition signed by over 10,000 local people calling on the Hospital to re-open the G5 end-of-life care ward.

    (Photo courtesy of The News, Portsmouth)

    I’ve already presented a copy of the petition to the government’s Independent Reconfiguration Panel who are reviewing the decision to close the ward and in the next few weeks I will present it to the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, in London.

    I really hope that the Board of the Hospital Trust will take note of the strength of feeling against the G5 closure.

    Unfortunately I don’t think it will make much difference. They don’t even seem willing to consider the possibility that they made a mistake in closing G5, which is very short-sighted of them.

    Given that the Health Ombudsman has, last month, slammed the treatment of elderly patients within the NHS (See here), I also asked the Board if they would consider conducting a full review of the treatment of elderly patients in Portsmouth. I stressed to them the importance of having a review that looked at all treatment of older people, in hospitals and the community, and that any review must involve patients and their families.

    The hospital refused to consider this. They said that they will consider the implications of the Health Ombudsman’s report internally and if necessary would only consult with partner ‘organisations’.

    They simply don’t seem to have learnt any lessons from the way they have handled this issue.

    I was pleased that the Portsmouth North MP, Penny Mordaunt, echoed my views in todays paper, saying that “The senior management team has shown that it is not up to the job” and adding “They’ve consistently missed every opportunity to respond to public concern”.

    I completely agree with Mrs Mordaunt that; “The management team has really got to take a long hard look at themselves or the Secretary of State has got to step in.”

  • Meeting the Independent Reconfiguration Panel

    Rachel Hawthorn, Will Purvis & Darren Sanders - Picture Courtesy of the News, Portsmouth

    Yesterday I met with the members of the Government’s Independent Reconfiguration Panel
    to present evidence on how the Hospital Trust failed to consult over the ward closure and why the G5 end-of-life care ward should be reopened.

    I spent about an hour with the IRP, the meeting went very well and they seemed very interested in what we had to say and gave us a lot of time to talk through everything. We handed over a copy of our petition with 10,000 names on. I think they were quite surprised at the number of signatures and it showed the strength of feeling about G5 here in Portsmouth.

    Rachel Hawthorn from The News came along with us to present a copy of all the articles and letters that they had too. She has written a really good piece about the meeting in The News today and you can read it online here.

  • Portsmouth Hospitals Chief Executive lies about Public Meeting

    Yesterday, Ursula Ward, the Chief Executive of Portsmouth Hospitals Trust wrote to me to say that the Hospital Trust had not refused to attend a public meeting about the closure of the G5 Ward:

    "In your email you state that I have previously refused to attend such an event. I think it is important that I put the record straight in that I have never refused such an invitation."
    Ursula Ward 17th February 2011

    This is an outright lie.

    Below I attached my email to Ursula Ward today which included a copy of an email from the PA to Julie Dawes, the Director of Nursing and ‘executive lead’ on end-of-life care, confirming that the Hospital’s Executive Management Team had considered the request further but refused to attend. It is worth noting that her letter to me yesterday was itself in reply to a repeated invitation asking the Hospital Trust to attend the public meeting and address the concerns of patients and their families.

    My email to Ursula Ward:

    Dear Mrs Ward,

    In response to your letter (by email) of 17th February 2011, I feel that it is I who should set the record straight for you. I attach below for your information a copy of the email exchange between myself and Claire Woodward (on behalf of Julie Dawes, Director of Nursing) confirming your Executive Team’s refusal to send a hospital representative to last night’s public meeting. I am sure that Allison Stratford, your director of Communications and Engagement, will be happy to confirm to you that the subject of a public meeting was discussed on the 17th January and your Executive Team undertook to reply to the request within 7 days.

    You are perfectly aware that the meeting of the 17th January was not a public meeting and it is misleading to try and represent it as such. In fact, the hospital explicitly restricted us to 5 attendees and demanded names and questions in advance of that meeting.

    I brought this to the attention of the members of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel in my meeting with them yesterday and also raised your point that it would not be appropriate for you to attend a public meeting while their review was underway. They stressed to me that this was entirely your decision as a hospital and that they would not have raised objections to you attending such a meeting. In fact, the members of the Panel themselves did attend last night’s public meeting and listened to the views of dozens of patients and families with experience of end-of-life care at Queen Alexandra Hospital.

    It is regrettable that once again the Hospital has shown a complete disregard for the opinion of patients and families, and that you continue to seek to avoid public scrutiny.


    Will Purvis

    Save G5 Ward Campaign Group


    From: Woodward Claire – PA to Director of Nursing [mailto:claire.woodward@porthosp.nhs.uk]

    Sent: 21 January 2011 09:55

    To: Will Purvis

    Subject: RE: FAO: Julie Dawes – Meeting with Save G5 Ward Campaign Group

    Dear Mr Purvis

    Thank you for your email and request for further information. I have attached the presentation that was given on 17th January 2011 and email address for Mark Roland (noted below).


    As agreed on the 17th, in response to the group’s request for a public meeting, I can confirm that Julie and the Executive Management Team have given this further consideration. However, their view remains that, whilst the IRP are considering the end of life care pathway, a public meeting would not be appropriate. They, and the Board, will await the IRPs findings.

    If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact myself or Julie.

    Kind regards.

    Claire Woodward

    Personal Assistant to Julie Dawes, Director of Nursing


    Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust

    Trust Headquarters

    Room F307,  F Level

    Queen Alexandra Hospital


    PO6 3LY

    Tel: 02392 28(6801)

    Fax: 02392 286073

    Email: Claire.Woodward@porthosp.nhs.uk

    From: Will Purvis [mailto:wapurvis@me.com]

    Sent: 18 January 2011 12:40

    To: ‘claire.woodward@porthosp.nhs.uk’

    Subject: FAO: Julie Dawes – Meeting with Save G5 Ward Campaign Group

    Dear Julie,

    I just wanted to thank you for holding last night’s meeting and ask that you pass mine and my colleagues’ thanks on to everyone from the hospital who gave up their evening to meet with us. As I have tried to make clear at every point I am extremely keen there is a real dialogue between the hospital and campaigners about any concerns and that it is based on a good understanding of the facts.

    The information you provided in your presentation was extremely useful and I was wondering if you would be kind enough to email me a copy of the slides. I think it is important to ensure that any future questions or concerns raised by the campaign group are based upon accurate information and not reliant on hastily taken notes last night.

    I hope that the Executive Team is able to consider carefully the proposal for a joint public meeting and look forward to hearing from you with a proposal for an independent Chair with whom you would be happy to work. I am of course willing to discuss any other details of the proposal to ensure that you feel you have the best possible opportunity to fairly put your case to the public.

    I only have one other request, would you be able to give the email contact details for Mark Roland as he kindly indicated last night that he may be able to get me a copy of Hampshire’s end-of-life care strategy?

    Many thanks,

    Will Purvis

  • The value of peoples’ lives!

    g5wardLast night, I met with representatives of Portsmouth Hospital Trust to discuss the closure of the G5 ward, the lack of public consultation and the independent review currently taking place.

    I asked for this meeting last month and I am extremely grateful that the Hospital Trust agreed to it. While we were obviously never going to leave the meeting completely agreeing with each other, it is important that there is a real discussion between campaigners and the Hospital about the issues.

    I have asked the hospital for a copy of the presentation made to me last night on the changes to end-of-life care so that I can make the information public, but I did have a few concerns about the figures I was given.

    The hospital has finally admitted that finance was a consideration in the closure of the G5 ward and that they were looking to reduce the number of beds at the hospital as a whole. This is a major issue as the financial implications of closing the ward were not even a part of the extremely limited public consultation that they did conduct at the figures presented last night were only made public this week as a result of my request.

    Shockingly the financial saving from closing the G5 Ward only appears to be in the region of £29,000 per year.

    This is because caring for patients on general wards costs £250 per bed per day compared to £300 per bed per day for care provided on the G5 ward before it was closed.

    To compromise on the level of care for elderly patients reaching the end of their lives for the sake of £29,000 seems to be a chilling message from Portsmouth Hospitals Trust about the value of people’s lives!

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