The Chief Executive of NHS Wiltshire and NHS Bath & North East Somerset, Ed Macalister-Smith has issued a strongly worded response to Devizes MP Claire Perry’s repeated description of Wilthsire’s Primary Care Trust (PCT) staff as “quangocrats”.
As Marlborough News Online reported, Mrs Perry used the term three times during a live interview last Thursday (April 12) on BBC Radio Wiltshire which followed a clash over the PCT’s policy-making at her ‘Health Forum’ in Devizes the previous evening.
In a statement issued from the PCT’s Devizes headquarters (pictured below), Mr Ed Macalister-Smith said: “Mrs Perry’s comments come as an unnecessarily nasty and intentionally derogatory attack on NHS staff – many of whom are her constituents – who remain completely committed to providing quality health services to people in Wiltshire at a time of considerable personal uncertainty. They are offended and angry about her denigrating comments, as am I.”
The PCT will be abolished at the end of March next year and while scores of staff have already been made redundant, most of the rest will then lose their jobs.
Ed Macalister-Smith was critical of Mrs Perry’s allegation that the PCT took decisions in secret: “unelected quangocrats make decisions in backrooms.” He said this is “simply not true”. The public has access board meetings – where all decisions are made – and to agendas, board papers and minutes.
And he asks whether she will use her term “quangocrats” for the members of the new GP-led clinical commissioning group as they will also be unelected and the group will be, like the PCT, a statutory body.
Mrs Perry’s attack arose from a discussion at her ‘Health Forum’ about the lack of a Primary Care Centre (PCC) in Devizes. Mr Macalister-Smith’s reply (carried in full below) is accompanied by eight pages of detailed background on the Devizes PCC, the withdrawal of the Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) from Marlborough’s Savernake Hospital and the availability of MIUs in Wiltshire.
THE STATEMENT IN FULL:
Chief Executive responds to MP’s ‘quangocrat’ references
Ed Macalister-Smith, the Chief Executive of NHS Wiltshire and NHS Bath & North East Somerset, has responded to MP Claire Perry’s use of the term ‘quangocrat’ to describe Wiltshire Primary Care Trust in a radio interview last week.
Interviewed by Matthew Smith on BBC Radio Wiltshire on Thursday (April 12), Mrs Perry referred to the PCT staff as “quangocrats” three times. The Devizes MP’s attack arose from discussions at a Devizes health forum on Wednesday April 11, at which high level health professionals, including the Chief Executives of the three local acute hospitals and leaders from the Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group discussed the effect of the Health Act 2012 on local health services. Issues raised by the MP included the lack of a Primary Care Centre in Devizes and the restoration of a Minor Injuries Unit to Savernake Hospital in Marlborough.
During the interview, Mrs Perry blamed the lack of progress of a Primary Care Centre in Devizes on “unelected quangocrats”, an assertion which Mr Macalister-Smith says is grossly misleading and is offensive to hard working NHS staff:
“Mrs Perry asserts that “the quangocrat PCT has been an obstacle” to the provision of a Primary Care Centre in Devizes, which is an unacceptable distortion of the truth, as well she knows. The PCT first proposed the development of five Primary Care Centres throughout Wiltshire in 2007. Four of those are currently in development or are already completed – only Devizes remains undelivered. The reasons for this have been shared in private briefings with Mrs Perry before she was elected, again earlier this year and once again in public at the health forum in Devizes”, he said, adding “Why would the PCT put up obstacles to its own proposals?”
Mrs Perry went on to assert that “unelected quangocrats make decisions in backrooms” – something which is “simply not true”, according to Mr Macalister-Smith.
“All PCT decisions are made at Board meetings, which are open to the public and for which agendas and minutes are publicly available – because this is part of the operating legislation for statutory bodies. To assert otherwise is once again misleading”, he said, adding “In the future system of Clinical Commissioning Groups, adopted by the recent Health Act, GPs and other clinicians will also be unelected members of statutory organisations which replace the PCTs – will Mrs Perry consider them also to be quangocrats?
“Mrs Perry’s comments come as an unnecessarily nasty and intentionally derogatory attack on NHS staff – many of whom are her constituents – who remain completely committed to providing quality health services to people in Wiltshire at a time of considerable personal uncertainty. They are offended and angry about her denigrating comments, as am I”, continued Mr Macalister-Smith.
Four Wiltshire GPs helped to make up the panel at the Marlborough health forum on Thursday 12 April, where the debate turned to the lack of a Minor Injuries Unit at Savernake Hospital. Mr Macalister-Smith explained to the audience that as the annual budget for Wiltshire’s health services was “flat” and yet demand is rising, some services would have to be cut elsewhere in Wiltshire if local people wanted an MIU. He added that when it was open, the Savernake MIU had been attended by an average of twelve patients a day, some of whom attended with minor illnesses rather than injuries, which meant that the NHS was unnecessarily paying twice for their treatment – one payment to the GPs and one payment to the hospital.
Mr Macalister-Smith agreed with GPs at the meeting that there are other ways to meet the demand for MIU services, and that the PCT and GPs would work to find ways to address those until the GPs take up the reigns from the PCT completely in April 2013.(ends)