COMMENT: Public have a right to know about cuts

Herald Series: COMMENT: Public have a right to know about cuts COMMENT: Public have a right to know about cuts

THE warnings about a huge rise in people trying to kill themselves and other problems caused by cutting mental health services are incredibly stark.

Funding for the £700,000 service is being cut by the Government and there are no guarantees that even a fraction will be picked up by the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group – which decides the funding for much of the health services in our county – for it to continue.

Even if the OCCG can find £250,000 there will still be – and we quote from a high level report from Oxford Health, which runs the scheme – “a huge reduction in capacity of the service to meet the needs of Oxfordshire patients”.

The report goes on to detail an anticipated extra 1,200 suicidal acts, 470 people not being assessed and stuck on lengthy waiting lists, £65,000 extra in psychiatric medication costs, 1,500 extra visits to GPs and 2,400 additional mental health inpatient days.

It is all worrying stuff and you will no doubt think this is a matter that quite rightly the public should be concerned about and have an input into.

Yet this has only emerged through the report having to be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

And when we contacted the OCCG and Oxford Health separately to seek more information and each organisation’s view, they clubbed together and released a response almost insulting to the public in its blandness.

This is called “partnership work” – where organisations cosy up to each other to essentially say nothing that will upset officialdom’s apple cart – and it has infested our services to the detriment of public knowledge and scrutiny.

Everyone knows our health service has serious funding problems.

So why shouldn’t Oxford Health speak honestly and openly to the public through the media to further inform them about what it is prepared to say privately are potentially catastrophic problems?

If its senior executives are happy to pocket taxpayers’ money in wages, why can’t they show some leadership over such serious and, bluntly, life-threatening cuts by communicating with the public rather than holding behind-closed doors chats?

Oxford Health are in a tight spot. But the public have a right to know how tight and what it may mean for our most vulnerable citizens.

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