Royal Lancaster Infirmary doctor calls for “more openness and transparency”

Jeremy Hunt, fifth from right, with Amit Kochhar, fourth from right, Eric Ollerenshaw, right, and members of BAPIO (British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin).
Jeremy Hunt, fifth from right, with Amit Kochhar, fourth from right, Eric Ollerenshaw, right, and members of BAPIO (British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin).
  • Health minister Jeremy Hunt visits Lancaster on election campaign
  • RLI doctor calls for greater recognition of ethic minority staff
  • Labour claims Morecambe Bay Trust will have doubled its debt in 2015/16
  • Trust to appoint Freedom to Speak Up Guardian
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A doctor at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary has said the Morecambe Bay health trust “seems to be embracing cultural change”.

Amit Kochhar, an associate specialist in ENT (ear, nose and throat), who is also secretary of the local British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), spoke to the government’s health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who visited Lancaster on Tuesday, May 5.

Twenty-five percent of doctors in this country are from an ethnic minority, and they need to be recognised and respected.

With just two days to go before the election, Mr Hunt spoke to a number of doctors and specialists working for University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT) in a private meeting, before taking some questions from the Lancaster Guardian.

Mr Hunt is the third senior Conservative to visit the marginal constituency of Lancaster and Fleetwood in recent days.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne came to see the progress of the Heysham M6 Link Road on Friday, May 1.

The visit comes as the Labour Party says it has seen leaked documents showing Morecambe Bay Trust faces a projected deficit of £40 million in 2015/16, up from a deficit last year of nearly £19 million.

Mr Hunt said: “The RLI is incredibly important for the people of Lancaster.

“I have come to support Eric (Ollerenshaw), who has campainged really hard in support of the health trust.

“He wanted me to come and meet some of the doctors working at the trust to hear about the conditions and changes being made.

“There is a sense that the trust is now turning a corner, but I need to hear from doctors, and it needs to be easier for people to speak out if they see poor care.

“The trust here has a great future. We’ve addressed the problems of poor care at Morecambe Bay.

“My experience is that trusts with the biggest problems end up being some of the best in the country.”

Mr Hunt also said he would like to thank staff “who work incredibly hard under a huge amount of pressure”.

Mr Kochhar said that BAPIO wanted to put forward its views about the NHS and the contribution of ethnic minority doctors.

He said: “There are difficulties in terms of attainment, and deferential treatment sometimes.

“We need to have ethnic minorities in leadership positions.

“Twenty-five percent of doctors in this country are from an ethnic minority, and they need to be recognised and respected.

“We’re pleased to say our trust is doing something about it.

“There is definitely a determination now in Morecambe Bay to make things right. I think we’ve started on the way back to recovery.

“Kirkup is closed and now action will take place.

“We’d like to see the culture change with more openness and transparency. Freedom to speak up without worry, and no bullying, which has been the case in the past.

“The trust is appointing a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, and I think that is the way forward.

“Morecambe Bay seems to be embracing the culture change.”

With regards the projected deficit, Amina Lone, Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary candidate for Morecambe and Lunesdale said: “This is shocking news that our local hospitals will be in a £40 million cash crisis next year.

“People here are worried about the NHS. They tell me that they struggle to get doctors appointments, that the local A&E is in crisis and waiting lists are on the up. How are any of these issues going to be solved with the Tories and their spending cuts for the NHS?

“A vote for Labour on Thursday is a vote to save the NHS. We will recruit an extra 20,000 nurses and 8,000 doctors with a £2.5 billion Time to Care fund paid for by the mansion tax. This will make a real difference to people here in Morecambe.”