Saturday, July 11, 2015

Nairn Hydrotherapy Pool: "We were so dreadfully sorry and angry that the staff were put in this incredible position"

This is the third so far in a series of Gurn articles concerning the Hydrotherapy Pool campaign meeting that took place in the Nairn Community and Arts Centre on Thursday night. Friend of the Pool, Clive Murray, gave a hard-hitting speech highly critical of NHS Highland. Here's most of what he had to say: 

"Thank you Mr Chairman, good evening ladies and gentlemen, along with you and everyone else I’d rather not be here tonight. I’d rather be watching Emmerdale, happy in the knowledge that the people in Nairn who needed and wanted hydrotherapy were still being referred by their local GP to the pool for that very treatment. The Nairn Hydrotherapy Pool had a contract with NHS Highland which was due to run out, as Alastair MacGregor said, on the 31st March 2015. The contract was to do with GP referrals whereby the Nairn GPs directly referred their patients to the pool for hydrotherapy treatment – a tried and tested formula. This along with the fact that there was room for ambiguity about how many patients would receive funding if they exceeded a quota that was set by NHS Highland led to meetings taking place, as Alastair said, between October and December 2014. 

A compromise solution was agreed in writing taking matters through to the 31st of March this year. The agreement also stated that there would be consultations over a new contract between the parties and at the pool’s request this was to include the Nairn GPs; I also say the Nairn and Ardersier GPs in that, and the
Friend of the Pool, Clive Murray
pool’s hydrotherapist to take place between January and March this year: i.e. before the new financial year began on the 1st of April. When by early February 2015 we heard nothing, they contacted NHS Highland as you would imagine – who berated them for nagging and saying they, NHS Highland, would let the pool know when the consultations would take place. The pool heard nothing but continued to treat all the referrals sent by the GPs including after the 1st April. When the pool did hear and it was finally, June 19th 2015, this year in other words, it was a letter from NHS Highland saying all bets were off and they were looking at rerouting their budget allocations to the leisure and recreation arm of Highland Council. The letter was received at exactly the same time as a press release issued to the media and coincided with a phone call from the press to the pool to ask staff for comment on the bad news and all that the information implied. 

We were so dreadfully sorry and angry that the staff were put in this incredible position. We hasten to add that the media were only acting in good faith. The pool, its staff and trustees, as well as its patients and their families and their carers found the methods used by NHS Highland to be both cruel and abhorrent.”

Clive Murray then talked about how the three petitions came about separately and went on: “All three petitions have in common the main aim and purpose of persuading NHS Highland to see the folly and, dear I say, the cruelty of their ways.”

“Next to happen, or not to happen was that the trust chairman phoned Deborah Jones, the Chief Operating Officer, on the 24th of June, a Wednesday, to ask her to meet with myself, he confirmed this unanswered request by e-mail. Four reminders and re-requests later we finally got an answer from them on Thursday the 2nd July, eight days later. On Friday the 3rd of July NHS Highland issued another press release saying GP referrals for hydrotherapy would be resurrected from that day the 3rd of July until the 31st of October. We are unclear as to whether the GPs were even informed about this. We understand they were informed of another new system of referrals but not necessarily to do with hydrotherapy.

Meantime we will continue to ask for a one to one meeting with the Chief Operating Officer, to negotiate the 2015/16 contract. They have agreed to this but we still await their proposals of dates despite courteous reminders.”
Clive Murray then read an e-mail from the Chief operating officer of NHS Highland. A little later he continued:

"So that is the factual layout of what has happened or not happened and what we have had to put up with on your behalf as we try and fight to retain the contract, far less restore it once it was axed, suddenly, without consultation, on June 19th."

He then moved on to the sequence of events over the last eight months.

“I was given a full and side on view of the meetings, being in attendance at the November and December meetings, often to the resentment of those present from NHS Highland – I wonder why? I still cannot to this day fathom out the people at NHS Highland who we have had to deal with. You would expect a reasonable, if not high degree of both integrity and professionalism from them but this has been sadly lacking.

Consider the following which disproves any excuse that any shortcomings, might have been one-offs; on the contrary they seemed to have turned obstruction, betrayal and obfuscation into art forms. The highlights or should I say the low lights have been the broken promises to consult; the dismissal and disdain shown to us when we asked when this might actually occur; the passing of the new financial year which started on the 1st of April without any contact, far less contract and the final and devastating act of issuing a press release, which again I repeat the media dealt with in perfectly good faith; and that simply axing of the contract and without NHS Highland even checking that the trust had received a copy of this letter and giving them, the trust, the opportunity to talk to members of staff. This was followed by the insult of announcing a resurrection of referrals from the rest of July to October without, it is our understanding, necessarily telling the GPs this was happening. Again it was a press release that was their chosen form of communication.”

“[...] It has been a cocktail of bullying, deception and low standards. It needs to be addressed by the very top and it is exceeding disappointing that he Chief Executive does not seem to think that this whole scandalous matter is important enough for her to attend tonight to listen and to explain.

I have seen members or friends of the trust who were cajoled and sneered at with highly appointed, and not doubt highly paid, senior executives looking over their glasses and peering down their noses at them. I have lots of dealings with market organisations who have bullied or betrayed their customers or the people that they are there to serve; whether it has been banks, energy supply companies or in this case NHS Highland. They all seem to have one thing in common, this unshakeable and totally self-persuading notion that might is right – nothing could be further from the truth The people of Nairn, the wonderful people of Nairn, town and County, and the surrounding areas, whether ill, injured, infirm or incapacitated; whether patients, relatives, friends, carers or members of staff deserve better than this and I pledge to do everything within my power and ability to try and help a safe and working future for the pool including through its NHS contract. So here’s to the future and the next 30 years.

In conclusion I’d like to say I’m proud to be a friend of the pool, determined to help in any way I can to get this contract resurrected in a fair way and to an appropriate level. Thank you ladies and gentlemen.”

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