Fight to save Nascot Lawn gains ally in St Albans council

PUBLISHED: 13:00 20 July 2017

Nascot Lawn.

Nascot Lawn.

Danny Loo Photography 2017

The fight to save Nascot Lawn and local clinical care has gained a crucial ally in St Albans council.

Nascot Lawn.Nascot Lawn.

Councillors voted to support Nascot Lawn respite service and oppose cuts to healthcare services on Wednesday, July 12.

Herts Valleys clinical commissioning group (HVCCG) are cutting £600,000 from Nascot Lawn, which provides care for children with complex health needs.

Speaking against the closure, Cllr Roma Mills told councillors: “This sort of service has to be protected.

“Take away regular respite care and the family situation breaks down. Take away respite care and health of the parents and the other children are affected.”

She argued the council’s energies should be focused at NHS England and Jeremy Hunt, who ordered HVCCG to cut the funding.

Cllr Mills was backed up by her Labour colleague Malachy Pakenham, who said: “This is not a frontline service so they feel they can cut it.

“The truth is the users of this service are so vulnerable they can not do anything, and their parents are so worn out and distressed they are not motivated to do anything.”

The 70 families affected by the closure of Nascot Lawn were only told last month the facility would be closing.

Many parents have since come forward to fight the proposals, which provide them and their other children with a break from caring for their disabled child.

Lib Dem councillor Chris White said: “We have to recognise the degree to which the public is subsidised hugely by these wonderful people who dedicate their lives, 24 hours a day, without respite.

“Are there any jobs you would do for money where you would accept terms like that?”

The cross-party unity continued when the Conservative leader of the Alec Campbell voiced his support for the motion.

Cllr Campbell said: “This facility offers not just overnight care but day care as well.

“These people do need the support.”

He compared the notice period HVCCG gave to the parents to “hurling a grenade and waiting for it to explode”.

Cllr Mills’ motion to write to Jeremy Hunt asking him to withdraw the decision was passed by the council.

Councillors also voted for a motion to oppose cuts to healthcare services HVCCG are consulting on.

These cuts would include restricting surgery for people who are overweight or smoke until they improve their lifestyle.

Cllr Robert Donald said: “We are giving an unelected state quango the power to determine what is and what is not an acceptable healthy lifestyle, and punish those who do not adapt to their blueprint.”

“Today it’s about stopping smoking. Tomorrow HVCCG could decide only those who reduce their alcohol intake will be treated or those who stop playing rugby, or that dangerous activity of gardening, because all those activities could be risky and they could go to A&E and cost money.”

“This feels like a watershed for the NHS locally. I intend to fight for the soul of the traditional NHS.”

The question of who they should fight was raised by Green councillor Simon Grover.

He argued the main culprit was not HVCCG but central government, to the agreement of the Labour party.

Cllr Mills said the Green amendment was “pointing the finger where it needs to go”.

“There is no point beating up the CCG when they are trying to find £45 million of savings.”

Cllr Alec Campbell, who proposed the Conservatives’ amendment to Cllr Donald’s original motion, echoed this sentiment.

He said: “We wanted to avoid criticising the CCG because we want to work with them to solve some of their problems.”

Where he differed from his colleagues was: “I do not think the proposals are too draconian.”

Cllr Donald responded to his colleagues’ concerns with: “It is not that the government have cut funding.

“They have not provided sufficient funding for the increased demand.”

In the end, Cllr Donald’s motion was carried unanimously after the Conservative amendment was added to it.

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