Today was our public meeting with the CCG, the body who are responsible for patient care and responsible for GPs in some way that’s very hard to clarify, but doesn’t involve anything to do with money apparently.
The CCG set this meeting up themselves. The details were in the letter that was sent out to us patients to tell us that the surgery was closing. It had absolutely nothing to do with me or the community group whose Facebook page I look after.
Yesterday, a smaller number of our group had a meeting with the CCG, also at their request and at their offices.
It was depressing. As expected, they are denying all responsibility for taking care of our GP. Apparently they don’t have to. We, as the patients are their responsibility. It doesn’t seem to add up to them that if they take away the GP we care about, they are failing in their duty of care to us.
They had, as we expected, a great many answers to things we did not ask about, and no answers to things we really want to know. They were very keen to blame our GP for everything from how much money he got to his supposed mis-management of his practice (although how they would know this, given that they were adamant they could not ask about his finances, it’s hard to say), to the fact that he ‘really really wants to resign’. Even though his letter to us clearly stated he wanted to keep working for another decade.
We tried to find a way forward. They cut us off at every turn. Not only do they not want to keep our GP, they also intend to shut his surgery, leaving us as patients on already overburdened practices. One in fact, that this morning was quoting a three to four week wait for an appointment.
I was not looking forward to tonight’s meeting. I was fairly sure that they would waste as much time as possible on mundane things, move on to very politely trashing our Doctor, and then send us home after having given half an ear to a few patient woes. I felt that this would totally demoralise all the wonderful people who have rallied around, and much as the CCG would want, would knock the energy right out of our campaign.
It could not have been further from the truth of what happened.
We were asked to meet at a venue chosen by the CCG that only held 120 people. They brought about 20 people with them, including their Chair person and their MD. Clearly they were not concerned about us at all.
They had people on the door issuing tickets. When capacity was reached they closed the doors. There were still about 150 of us outside, including small children, babies and a fair number of elderly and infirm people, all of whom were freezing in the cold. We asked if the windows of the meeting room could be opened so some of us could hear what was happening. We were denied.
When we would not disperse, members of the CCG lost their tempers with us. At no time were we rowdy or aggressive. The police, who were called by the CCG can vouch for that. They were rather lovely, in fact, and quite bewildered as to why they were there.
Interestingly they told us they had been called out by the CCG. One member of the CCG told me that the police presence had nothing to do with them, and in fact, the police had been called by a Zen Buddhist practice group in the same building who were worried about what we were doing. Another member of the CCG told me that they informed the police they would be needed when they booked the venue as they anticipated over 100 people at the meeting, and it is a legal requirement. This directly contradicts what they said to someone else this evening, which was that they were taken by surprise by how many of us turned out, even though they have been monitoring our activities on our Facebook page and knew how many people had signed our petition. They said that at the last meeting of this kind, only seven people turned up, so they could not be responsible for poor venue planning.
I wonder if they always bring twenty members of staff, including their most senior staff to meetings where they expect only seven people to turn up.
The police also told us that they were called by the CCG to the open, public meeting they had on Tuesday at which I attended, in case we got rowdy. I was there for twenty minutes, on my own, and never opened my mouth. Good use of public funding there.
Tonight, one of the CCG members told me that we were asking questions to which the CCG were telling the truth, and it was not their fault if the truth they were telling us did not suit us.
I refer you to the paragraph above about the police presence, as one of several occasions when their ‘truth’ has contradicted other ‘truths’ they have told us, which means that the ‘truth’ is more flexible than you could possibly imagine.
We were treated very poorly this evening. People were insulted and ignored. One man who just asked a civil question was accused of rudeness, at which point the person doing the accusing turned round and stormed off.
I was accused of rudeness because one member of the CCG heard from someone else in the building that after the meeting last night, I was being insulting about all the people we had met with, and that because I was doing that in the lobby of the CCG building, the concierge had heard it and reported my rudeness back to the CCG board members. This was dished out this evening as some kind of justification for the way they were treating elderly people like dirt.
Firstly, I have no recollection of it. Maybe I did, but it seems odd that I did it in the confines of the CCG building, with others present, including the Chair of Leicester City Scrutiny Committee. Secondly, it does not reflect well on them that they are willing to try to smear someone with hearsay reported by their concierge. Thirdly. I DON’T CARE. This is not a popularity contest. I cannot believe they are not cursing me to hell and back in private, but who cares. It is not my responsibility to care for the CCG. It is their responsibility to care for me and all the patients they were being frankly horrible to on a freezing night in February.
This is not the playground. These are people’s lives.
Eventually, to appease those of us outside, CCG members were sent out with clipboards to get people’s email addresses to arrange a meeting in a bigger venue. At several points I had to intervene as they failed to inform people whose details they wanted who they were and what they wanted them for. It was very poorly executed and people were understandably wary of giving out private details when things were not properly explained to them.
It was amazing that not only was I, who is the Facebook page co-ordinator, and someone they had specifically asked to meet with, not allowed into the meeting, nor was the chair person of the City Council’s Health and Well Being Scrutiny board, nor a prominent local campaigner on patient rights, nor our local MP, Jon Ashworth.
Inside there was a Powerpoint presentation up for the duration of the meeting laying out exactly how we were supposed to behave. We could see it from the windows. It was utterly patronising and insulting, which set the tone for the rest of the meeting.
There was twenty minutes of housekeeping about what was and wasn’t acceptable, and then they set about trying to ruin the reputation of our Dr in the hope that it would make us all go home. This to a room full of people, some of whom have been looked after by his family for fifty years.
They also had a lay person who was running interference as far as questions from the floor went (lay members of the CCG are renumerated for their time by the way. They cannot be truly partisan because of this, in my opinion). This person was, I was told by more than one person, extremely rude to people on more than one occasion, shouting across them when there were questions he did not approve of.
When people were finally leaving it was clear by just how many of them talked to us, and how many of them signed our petition and have since joined our Facebook page, that the meeting has done more than any one single thing that the CCG have done so far to make people more angry and determined to fight this.
It showed through every decision they took, and every action that they authorised how unfit they are to decide the future of us, their patients. Yet this is what they are mandated to do.
I cannot thank the CCG enough for what happened this evening.
It occurs to me as a general principle, when I think of how my children are losing the right to an affordable university education, when libraries are shutting down all over the country, when benefits are slashed to the bone, when hospitals are at breaking point, when GPs are fleeing the NHS like rats from a sinking ship, and all of it affects the little people like us, what else have we got to lose?
You see, when you take everything away from people, so that they have nothing to lose, it makes the question of whether you should fight for the things you care about a really simple decision.