Welfare system is under threat

Madam,

Over the last few months our Conservative led local authorities have been engaged in seeing how they can produce a sustainable financial plan, for the coming year. Derbyshire Dales District Council has had a 25 per cent cut in government funding and Derbyshire County Council has been forced to save many millions of pounds.

The Labour Group is committed to working with the Council in the best interest of residents and maintaining high quality services to the public. Over the years I have asked the DDDC to produce a policy and a strategy to address poverty, but to no avail. At this time of deep cuts this would have ensured that a culture prevailed that in turn provided some protection to the more vulnerable in our society and that the impact on them would be lessened.

My present anxiety is that the changes we are beginning to experience at a central government level will begin to permeate downwards and will infiltrate the services provided by local government eroding our concept of the “welfare state”.

The NHS is one example of state provision that ought to be protected from the type of cuts local authorities have been expected to make. But look what such measures can have on residents of Derbyshire.

“An elderly gentleman recently had a cataract removed from his right eye.

Until a few months ago, it would have been routine for the cataract in the other eye to be removed shortly afterwards. This is no longer the case and he was referred to the Derbyshire PCT website to read their policy on what they deem to be ‘Procedures of Limited Clinical Value’. Most PCTs have a similar policy. The title of the policy gives the game away – of limited value to whom? Cataract removal, along with many other operations, is on the list. 

The list is interesting in that, apart from cosmetic procedures, most of the procedures are those which people tend to need as they get older. Quality of life for patients is not mentioned nor is consulting medical staff or allowing consultants to use their judgement in decision making.

The expectation of staff at the Hospital is that one eye operating theatre will be closed shortly and nursing staff will lose their jobs. So front line services are not being protected. 

He asked what would happen to his left eye. He was told that the cataract will continue to grow and his eye sight will deteriorate over time until he becomes effectively blind in that eye.”

These deep financial cutbacks in public services over the next two years and beyond will impact on many and but especially on the most vulnerable.

There is a fear that the attitude and approach to how we look after the less fortunate in our society will alter.

We are in danger of creating a culture where investment in public services is viewed as waste. The universal provision under our welfare system is being threatened. Those who can pay can access services and health care whilst the more worse off suffer.

Cllr Irene Ratcliffe

Leader of the Labour Group

Derbyshire Dales District Council