Don't assume our local hospitals are safe
I'm sure most Cumbrians, and everyone else with a local cottage hospital which has been under threat, were very pleased to hear Patricia Hewitt's announcement of a fund with £750 million to support community hospitals. It certainly sounded as though the message that more support for these hospitals is needed was getting through to the government and that action is being taken.
Alas, like many of New Labour's announcements, there is less to this than meets the eye. The problem is that this new fund is purely for CAPITAL projects - e.g. one-off spending such as building new wards, purchase of major new items of equipment, etc. The funding shortfalls which are threatening our Community hospitals are in CURRENT expenditure - ongoing costs like wages, gas water & electricity bills, rates, and so on. There may and probably will be some instances where investment such as putting decent insulation into, or replacing, old buildings may reduce their running costs. But local heath managers have to be pro-active in making those benefits a reality.
Two conclusions from this. First, we should lobby our NHS Trusts to look for ways to bid for this fund for capital projects which will improve the revenue position of our Community Hospitals. Second, we must not assume this means our local hospitals are safe.