An important meeting last week was with Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS’ clinical director, and the rest of his team who are responsible for the investigation into the ‘higher than average’ mortality rates at the Blackpool Vic. This a tricky area, and it is easy for scare stories to get out of control, so my first point would be to urge caution about the use of this data – as Sir Bruce did to me. The data doesn’t mean that the Vic is dangerous – far from it. The figures raise questions to ask rather than meaning a conclusion has already been reached.
Standardised mortality rates are a measure of how you would expect the average hospital with the average population to perform – and if a hospital is at variance with these, then it can be for a whole host of reasons which have nothing to do with theactual quality of care in the hospital. I know that nowhere is perfect, and Blackpool has its share of complaints. But many issues involve the state of public health locally, the fact the local population is above average in terms of elderly, and I know my constituency has more people living in a household with a long-term medical condition than any other. So I was pleased to hear that the investigation is seeking to assess the way in which the whole local health economy works, rather than just examining the hospital in isolation. Let’s wait and see what the review says about the wider picture, and I have urged Sir Bruce to liaise with the local Healthwatch and other patient groups.
This message was reinforced by the Disability Information Day at St Anne’s Church in Greenlands last Friday which I dropped by to have a look round – a reminder of the host of local charities that provide support for people with a whole range of conditions. When the worst news strikes, and we receive a diagnosis that may be quite shocking, it often takes time to sink in that there are sources of reassurance out there from people who may share a condition. It’s always worth contacting the Independent Living Centre or your specialist at the time to get in touch, as no-one should have to face a long-term condition alone.
I then went on to Lytham to give my support to David Haythornthwaite’s St George’s Day Festival at the lunch he had organised. It seems so obvious, but I still struggle to understand why St George’s Day is not a Bank Holiday in England when the other ‘home nations’ get that. And I know that we have May Bank Holiday – but I still think we should have one for the day itself. It was a cracking occasion in aid of three causes very close to Fylde hearts – the Army Benevolent Fund, Donna’s Dream House and Trinity Hospice.
The latter two also popped up as recipients at my later appearance at Blackpool’s Masonic Hall where I was the guest of honour for their ‘giving night’ which saw £47,000 donated to a vast range of local and national causes selected by lodge members. All the charities who attended had a few minutes to tell us a bit about themselves – it was rather like speed dating – and I certainly came away with a newer, longer list of charities still to meet! The charitable aspect of the Masonic organisation is often overlooked or little-known, and they deserve credit for their generosity.
I was also delighted a bit earlier that day to attend the opening of the new Blackpool Rangers JFC clubhouse, changing rooms and car park – all done thanks to a combination of Government-funding channelled through the Football Foundation (alongside the FA), as well as the Council and local ward councillors’ budgets. It’s avery luxurious set-up in the function room, and the car park will be greatly welcomed by both users and neighbours to help reduce off-street parking. The Gala Field is one of many local pitches used by the youth teams around Blackpool, and it’s good to see the Football Foundation taking such an interest in supporting youth football locally. We might not often think about junior football, but quite often, the coaches might be the only male role model in the lives of some young boys – and for that alone, I think it’s worthwhile investment, before we even get on to the sporting contribution. The greatest amount of praise should go to their Chairman Steve Simms who has shepherded the project through from start to finish, and has delivered quality at the best value possible. He claimed to have had a few sleepless nights, but I hope that the pleasure on the faces of the boys as they got to use the new facilities will tell him it was all well worthwhile.