Paul Whiteside Director of Strategic Change at NHS Peterborough and part of the new team addressing the budget shortfall following the departure of Marco Cereste talks to the BBC’s Paul Stainton, after a report emerges that a new all hours doctors’ surgery in Millfield will close, after only fourteen months, due to underuse and budget cuts. Broadcast at 08:20 on Tuesday 20th July 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
STAINTON: Paul Whiteside is the Director for Strategic Change for NHS Peterborough. Morning Paul.
WHITESIDE: Good morning.
STAINTON: A few issues here. Local councillors unhappy that there’s a lack of detail in the report. We’ve heard from listeners this morning who said they didn’t even know Alma Road existed. Stewart Jackson is saying if they take you at face value and it does have to close what a blinking waste of money.
WHITESIDE: I think as Stewart was saying earlier the reality is that we as NHS Peterborough have had to review all our services, and that’s an ongoing task made particularly important at the moment due to the financial context. And it is that Alma Road is a service which effectively is duplicated by similar services nearby. And if I can just take a second, it provides walk-in services for unregistered patients, and it also provides primary care for registered patients. But within a mile of Alma Road there are another ten GP practices with open lists, all of whom offer extended opening. And just over a mile from Alma Road is the excellent facility, the Walk-In Centre at the City Care Centre.
STAINTON: So why did you open it in the first place? No need for it. A complete waste of money then?
WHITESIDE: Well again I think we need to put everything in its context. The context was that a couple of years ago when the national policy context was quite different, and the Government brought foward proposals that it wanted a walk-in centre to be opened in all areas, with something like the extended opening hours that we’ve got at the Walk-In Centre at the City Care Centre, so seven till ten every day of the week, then it was a national policy directive to open such centres, and it made sense in that context.
STAINTON: So you just open a centre in a place where nobody wants it, nobody’s going to use it. Who was responsible for looking at flows and population and forward planning for this sort of stuff? Because to me there’s no wonder you’re thirteen million pounds in debt, if you’re just opening centres where nobody wants them.
WHITESIDE: Well I think at the time people chose this location because it’s an area of known deprivation and higher need, so it made sense on that rationale.
STAINTON: Fourteen months ago it made sense.
WHITESIDE: Well it’s been open for fourteen months, but obviously the planning would have preceded that. But in that context it made sense, and the area made sense. And of course it’s not just for that area. It is something that is open to residents of .. everybody in Peterborough.
STAINTON: But it’s for nobody isn’t it? Nobody’s using it.
WHITESIDE: Well I think it is being used. It is maybe not being used as much as initially envisaged, but it is certainly being used and has been providing a good service so far.
STAINTON: How much has it cost us in total? It must have cost a few hundred thousand to set up, a million pounds a year to run, so roughly how much, ballpark figures?
WHITESIDE: Well you’ve just given the ballpark figures.
STAINTON: A million? Two million?
WHITESIDE: It’s roughly a million pounds a year for the whole of the service and the rental of the facilities and so on.
STAINTON: What about the set-up?
WHITESIDE: I don’t have the detailed set-up costs to hand, but I think you’re in the right ballpark when you say a number of hundreds of thousands.
STAINTON: So about one and a half million roughly, wasted?
WHITESIDE: As I say I think it has been .. it made sense in the context of the time. It has been providing a service which I’m sure has been welcomed. In fact at last night’s meeting with the City Council there were plenty of people spoke and said that it does provide a service that they have appreciated.
STAINTON: But you can’t have it both ways. It’s either working or it’s not. It’s either a waste of money or it’s value for money, isn’t it? It can’t be in the middle.
WHITESIDE: Well I think what I’m trying to give you is the accurate picture of exactly what it is providing, which is it hasn’t provided as much as maybe intitially projected, but on the other hand it is providing quite an amount of service, so it is somewhere in the middle I’m afraid. That’s just the reality of it.
STAINTON: Can you see that people are going to be listening to this this morning thinking I can’t believe NHS Peterborough can be run like this?
WHITESIDE: Well I think as the MP was saying we are a new management team to a large extent with Sheila Bremner as the Chief Executive, and we are getting a grip of things, which is what people would want us to do. And that does mean we have to review services and bring forward proposals for taking tough decisions, which is exactly what we’re doing.
STAINTON: I’m not laying it at your door. I know there’s quite a lot of new people on the team here. But historically speaking an incredible amount of waste around Peterborough it seems. And it’s our money that appears to have been just thrown away.
WHITESIDE: And we are definitely getting a grip of that, and making sure that we bring forward rational proposals where we can see there is duplication of similar services, and that’s what we’re doing to make sure that we’re actually using the money that is our money, the money of Peterborough residents, to best effect.
STAINTON: Yes. Can you assure people this morning that there’ll be no more waste on this scale?
WHITESIDE: We are absolutely committed to making sure that we use the money to very best effect and that we root out any waste and inefficiencies.
STAINTON: Well thank you for coming on this morning Paul. Paul Whiteside, who’s the Director for Strategic Change for NHS Peterborough.