A couple of months ago, around the middle of January, I received a press release from the office of our local MP, Aidan Burley, entitled ”MP SUBMITS PLANS FOR TRANSFERRING CANNOCK HOSPITAL TO THE COMMUNITY” (yes, it’s all in caps. They always are for some reason – maybe it’s a PR thing I’ve not been made aware of yet).
The fundamentals of the release are contained quite nicely in the opening paragraph of the email, which reads:
Chase MP Aidan Burley has today submitted his first report to Health RegulatorMonitor setting out how Cannock Hospital could be transferred at a peppercorn rent to the local community to own and run.
This is interesting stuff. The Mid Staffs NHS trust, which handles both Cannock and the now notorious Stafford hospital, has been claiming poverty for quite some time, stating that their services are unsustainable while borrowing heavily from the Ministry of Health. Cannock, viewed as a minor hospital as it has no Accident and Emergency ward and, somewhat bizarrely, only around a 40% occupancy rate, was starting to look like a potential scapegoat for the cash-strapped authority, especially as health service watchdog Monitor stepped in to oversee management of the trust.
Of course, there has never been a direct suggestion that Cannock is to be sold. Mid Staffs NHS chiefs have repeatedly stated that they will be doing all they can to continue provisions at both Cannock and Stafford, and specialist treatment continues to happen at Cannock hospital. However, this hasn’t stopped local people from being concerned about the potential future of the site, especially when cut-backs were announced in the local press.
Mr Burley, the MP for Cannock Chase, has seemingly been trying to put into place an alternate plan, presumably in case Cannock Hospital does get earmarked for sale. Initially, he suggested that the council should purchase the hospital, retaining a majority stake to ensure that the services continued. However, the local council couldn’t see how this was feasible, as it would involve a large sum of money that simply wouldn’t be in any budget.
This is where we return to where we started – the MPs plans to retain services by transferring ownership to local people, who would pay a ‘peppercorn rent‘ in order to maintain the hospital. Now, before we go any further, local people don’t seem to be keen in this idea. From visiting and sitting in on NHS ‘Question Time’ style meetings, quite a number of people angered quickly at the suggestion that they pay extra for a service they already pay for via their tax.
The PR article includes a few brief statements, but never really gives any detail as to how this would work, or what kind of payments constitutes a ‘peppercorn rent’ exactly. So, being the good little local news prodder that I am, I asked the obvious question – where’s the report?
Hi Alex,Thanks for the information.Is the full report publicly available?
Seems simple enough. It’s a report involving the future of a locally-provisioned hospital, which is set to suggest that people pay an extra fee in order to retain the services, so it’s of public interest to see the detail, yes?
It is not currently publically available as it is being considered by Monitor.
Oh. Well, maybe if I ask Locality, the group identified in the PR piece as being involved in creating the report?
Hi,I believe that you have been working on an Outline Business Plan for Cannock Hospital, pertaining to how the hospital could be released to the local community to run.As a local community organisation, I’d really be interested to read the full report but unfortunately I don’t appear to be able to find anywhere to access it.Is it at all possible to obtain a copy of the report?Many thanks,
Many thanks for your enquiry and your interest.
The outline business case for Cannock Hospital has been prepared at the request of Aiden Burley MP and is currently confidential as it is under consideration by Monitor. My understanding is that Mr Burley is planning to publish it at some stage in the future, although as yet I have no details. I will let you know once I have such information.
This is a bit.. odd. I’m sure there’s no real reason why the detail wouldn’t be released publicly, as it’s related to the community and potentially has an effect on what they’ll be paying to retain what’s essentially a fundamentally service.
I went to twitter and checked out a few things. Apparently, you can’t perform an FOI request against an MP, and nor can one be applied to Locality.
However, you can FOI Monitor, which is where the report was headed – so guess what I did next? I put in my request, waited patiently for the FOI to be dealt with, and got a response.
Monitor holds the information which you have requested, however I have decided not to allow you access to the information on the basis of the exemption under the FOI Act as described below.
Section 41 of the FOI Act – Information provided in Confidence
Section 41 provides an exemption from the right to know if the information in question was
provided to Monitor in confidence. There are 2 components to the exemption:
1. the information must have been obtained by Monitor from another person, and
2. disclosure of the information would give rise to an actionable breach of confidence.
The first component of the exemption is satisfied because Monitor obtained the information from
Aidan Burly, MP for Cannock Chase.
You can read the full response here: Mellet FOI Decision Letter 13.02.2013 (PDF).
So, as a resident of Cannock, I’m still not actually allowed to read a report mentioned in a PR email from Cannocks MP regarding Cannock Hospital.