Cumberland Madness: Disrespecting Veterans


The NHS can never be a bottomless pit and in recent years it has been struggling more than in most years as the country recognises that there is a limit to free healthcare and the extraordinary waste that the NHS entails. Paying too much for nurses, badly negotiated procurement and too many management/admin staff and hangers-on – all these and other NHS ills are getting more airtime in the media.

But sometimes there seems to be a lack of joined-up thinking when it comes to certain decisions regarding the NHS.

Is this because NHS planners would be working in the private sector if they were up to it? Do cost-cutters really think things through when they switch suppliers or close parts of the health service? Do core services need to be cut at the expense of more jobs for jobsworths?  Surely the bloated NHS is too fat already, no?

The closure of countryside surgeries is an issue we shall be addressing head on in detail in future here in Country Squire Magazine. But we cannot help but point out one example of mindless lack of NHS foresight, which is happening right now – the planned closure of a surgery in Plymouth, Devon, which surely cannot add up at all:

Cumberland GP surgery serves the Plymouth Devonport community who have the highest and often most complex healthcare needs in the city. Devonport residents die on average more than 10 years earlier than other Plymouth residents.

Although the surgery has only been open for three years, 2000 patients and counting currently use the facilities available. These include homeless residents who find accessing and trusting healthcare professionals difficult, individuals from the most deprived areas of Plymouth and ex-service men and women. All GPs who work at the surgery are well liked and respected as shown by the rapidly increasing patient list with patients choosing to come to the Cumberland surgery over other alternatives.

With the welcome announcement that the Marines will be returning to Plymouth in the multiple thousands there will be extra pressure put on surgeries by their attendant families and the staff brought in to cater for them. This will be a real shot in the arm to a deprived area but existing services will become stretched.

Despite this, NHS England are looking to close the Cumberland surgery and plan to lock its doors forever at the end of March 2017.

The local Patient Participation Group feels this is not acceptable. Patients, some of whom have never engaged in their own healthcare, have developed close and trusting relationships with their GP’s that will be lost. For some this includes unique PTSD cases brought on by service to the country in the Falklands and in other campaigns – how can we let these desperately important relationships be discarded?

More than 2000 patients will be expected to join another surgery with many of the alternatives a significant distance away. Most patients do not have access to private transport and will rely on public transport to access these surgeries. This is likely to be difficult, stressful, time-consuming and costly. The current situation therefore looks unfavourable. The most deprived residents of Plymouth face being deprived of yet another service, just in case dying 10 years younger wasn’t enough!

GP’s are willing to help and work with the community and the community is happy to engage with the Cumberland surgery. But blinkered NHS planners continue to fail to see the light.

Why can’t the NHS support this surgery? Don’t these men and women deserve their surgery?

The PPG has started this petition to show the NHS that the Cumberland Surgery is needed, wanted and required. There is also a campaign underway using the hashtag #savecumberlandsurgery

But Cumberland Surgery is running out of time and there needs to be an intervention from the higher echelons of Government fast.

Please sign to support the PPG’s aim to keep the Cumberland Surgery open for all current and future patients. The local MP, Oliver Colvile, is currently meeting local residents to discuss the matter.

This does seem like a case of joined-up thinking being thrown out of the window. Jeremy Hunt should bash some heads together and make them see sense. Great British Veterans, especially, deserve more.