NHS Plans: A Portsmouth Doctor Questions the Cuts

‘Your Big Health Conversation’ seeks to engage Portsmouth residents about the 5 year plan for Hampshire and Isle of Wight NHS Services, as set out in the controversial Sustainable Transformation Plan, or STP. Here a Portsmouth NHS doctor questions the assertions being made in the STP and survey to justify cuts of £577 million to NHS services across Hampshire and Isle of Wight. Editor in Chief Sarah Cheverton provides additional reporting.

Back in December, we reported that controversial plans for Hampshire and Isle of Wight NHS services were set to pass without consultation:

For those who don’t know – and there are a lot of us – STPs are 5 year plans for all aspects of NHS spending in England. 44 plans have been drawn up by health services, local authorities and health providers across the country, each one covering geographical areas known as ‘footprints’, and representing an average population of 1.2 million people. As well as covering NHS spending, each plan also has to show how NHS services can better integrate with local authority services such as adult social care – ‘known as place-based planning’ – and is expected to cover the period from October 2016 – March 2021.

Nationally, STPs have proved highly controversial with activists often referring to them as ‘Slash, Trash and Privatise’ plans.

Last month saw the launch of an online survey as part of ‘Your Big Health Conversation’, an engagement process run by the three clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) serving Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport, and South Eastern Hampshire. The closing date for responses is 24th March 2017.

A local NHS doctor who has been working with S&C since the plans were passed last year responds to some of the assertions being used by local NHS organisations and leaders within the survey process, particularly the central assertion that it will be possible to ‘make services better’ and ‘drive up services’ while cutting NHS funding in the region by over £570 million.

Your Big Health Conversation says:

The local NHS faces a twin challenge – living within its means in the short-term, and also making services better and affordable in the longer term. The NHS always makes year-on-year savings and has had considerable success in keeping spending under control. That process continues, but it is no longer enough – more fundamental changes must be considered.

The Portsmouth NHS Doctor says:

The NHS doesn’t ‘always’ make year-on-year savings, it has been forced to since 2010.

S&C says:

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy estimate that the NHS and social care face a funding gap of between £8.5 and £15bn by 2020.

The graph from the Kings Fund  below illustrates that since 2010, the UK has seen “the largest ever sustained reduction in UK NHS spending as a percentage of GDP”. The Kings Fund – an independent health charity – has also highlighted that funding to the NHS has fallen in comparison to health spending in other countries: “the United Kingdom has slipped further into the bottom half of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) health spending league – overtaken by Finland and Slovenia.”

Source: The Kings Fund, NHS spending squeezed as never before, [2015]

Your Big Health Conversation says:

The challenges are well-known – an ageing population living with more long-term illnesses, rising costs, the need to drive up standards, and all at a time when resources are limited.

The Portsmouth NHS Doctor says:

This is an oft repeated mantra but that doesn’t make it true. These issues are NOT the main problem, ideological Tory opposition to a fully public NHS is the problem.

S&C says:

Economist and columnist, Paul Krugman wrote a lengthy examination of austerity for The Guardian that concluded austerity was not only an ideology, but one with no evidence of success.

The Guardian, The Austerity Delusion by Paul Krugman [2015]

Your Big Health Conversation says:

These challenges have been set out in the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Sustainability and Transformation Plan. This document also describes how the NHS in different parts of the county has already begun to develop its own solutions – locally, through Health and Care Portsmouth, and Better Local Care in south east Hampshire.

The Portsmouth NHS doctor says:

STPs are imposed from above, using local CCGs and other NHS organisations and leaders as fig leaves and fall guys for imposed cuts from central government. The Hampshire and IOW STP aims to address cuts of £577m from the NHS and £192 million from social care budgets in the region, including by removing up to 300 hospital beds.

S&C says:

According to the IPPR, in an article examining potential benefits of reforms within the STPs as well as criticisms, the government has not yet given ‘NHS leaders real powers to intervene in their local area, as well as devolving functions currently undertaken by central government’.

Your Big Health Conversation says:

Those initiatives set out a broad vision of the future – more community-based support, removing boundaries between staffing groups to stop people being passed around the system – but there are big questions to be considered: What staff are needed? At what cost? Where? What quality of care can be provided? How quickly can care be delivered?

The Portsmouth NHS doctor says:

My belief is that the language used in the STPs hides the reality of the likely impact of the cuts it aims to address. For example, ‘more community based support’ points to hospital cuts.

‘Removing boundaries between staffing groups’ may actually refer to using cheaper, less qualified staff to undertake roles e.g. using nurses to do doctors’ jobs, using nurse associates (a role that doesn’t require a degree) to do work currently undertaken by qualified nurses, or using volunteers and helplines where a service was previously provided by trained staff.

S&C says:

Similar complaints have been made by Bristol campaigners about their STP:

The STP includes references to developing an ‘accountable care organisation’, to ‘demand management’, to reduction in ‘hospital admissions’, and to enabling the use of ‘personal care budgets’. This is all code for the restriction of treatments and the reduction of patient numbers. Moving to this kind of model (with its US-health insurance connotations) undermines the basic principle of the NHS to provide free treatment to all based on ‘clinical need’, a phrase, incidentally, that doesn’t appear once in the STP.

Your Big Health Conversation says:

The reality for the local NHS is that:

Without change… there will not be enough GPs and other key staff groups, as the current shortages get worse.

The Portsmouth NHS doctor says:

STPs and further ‘re-dis-organisation’ is actually driving out staff, it doesn’t help retain them. In reality the government want to run the NHS on a cheap, privatised basis, with more support workers and ‘physician assistants’ instead of doctors and nurses who have been pushed out of the NHS.

S&C says:

Health writer Margaret McCartney raised similar concerns in a recent article for The New Statesman, highlighting research from the British Medical Journal that found:

…professionals wasting time over poorly designed IT systems, conflicts between different teams (even within single organisations), heavy workloads and staff shortages, with multiple external agencies creating mess about where time and effort should be spent.

Your Big Health Conversation says:

Without change… there won’t be enough staff or resources to run a “seven-day NHS”.

The Portsmouth NHS doctor says:

There has always been a 7 day NHS where needed. The 7 day NHS spin is – I think- in part designed to push the NHS towards weekend consultant appointments where workers lose their weekend to go to the doctor.

S&C says:

The Nuffield Trust has said that “Implementing a seven-day NHS will mean significant changes to the way services are run, it will require a critical mass of specialist staff to be recruited, and it may mean closures or mergers of local services”.

A similar point has been made by Britain’s top GP, Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, who told The Guardian that surgeries will have to stop seeing patients during the week unless ministers abandon their drive to guarantee access to family doctors at weekends.

Your Big Health Conversation says:

Without change… the demands on A&E staff, ambulance crews and other urgent care services will keep on growing.

The Portsmouth NHS doctor says:

The government is closing and downgrading A&Es, so of course this drives up the need at the remaining A&Es. The govt needs to extend existing A&Es in line with the growing population, not shut them.

S&C says:

A report published in February in The Guardian (citing related reports from The Telegraph and BBC) found that:

One in six A&E departments face being closed or downgraded in the next four years, according to an analysis of NHS proposals.

About 33 casualty departments in hospitals in 23 areas of the UK are facing either complete closure or being replaced with minor injuries units.

Your Big Health Conversation says:

We know that changes are needed in the way we run GP services, community NHS teams, and hospitals. The ambition is to make these services better, but the reality is that change is necessary.

The Portsmouth NHS doctor says:

The change that is necessary is to increase funding to around 10% of GDP and stop privatisation/outsourcing. The administration of the ‘market’ in the NHS costs between £3.5 to £10 billion, I think per year.

According to FullFact – an independent UK fact-checking charity – estimated costs of the NHS marketplace are difficult to pin down, but vary between £4.5 to £10 billion per year.

Your Big Health Conversation says:

The details of how the local NHS will work in the future are not decided – that is why we need to hear the views of local people, so that they can be considered before any decisions come to be made. Please take a few minutes to let us know your views on the future of the local NHS.

The Portsmouth NHS doctor says:

Nonsense. STPs for the first two years from April 2017 were signed off on 23rd Dec 2016, so it has been decided, albeit with precious little detail e.g. where hospital beds will be cut, or where the £577 million cuts will be made. If I made a treatment plan for a patient like this, and asked the patient to sign it off without knowing much detail of what’s in it, I would get a massive complaint, and rightly so!

According to national health campaigners, 31 local authorities have already lodged objections to, or pledged to oppose, the STPs in their area, including the Isle of Wight Council, whose Chief Executive John Metcalfe wrote to NHS England stating:

The Committees were disappointed, the timescales to produce the plan, dictated by NHS England, did not give sufficient weight to the democratic process allowing it the opportunity to consider the final plan, or debate the issues it raises in a public forum, and did not appear to conform to the best practice guidance (for example Engaging Local People -NHS September 2016).

Star & Crescent would not have been able to publish this report without the assistance of a local GP, who has worked closely with us to help us understand the implications of the STP and the local campaign attempting to prevent it. This is part of S&C’s renewed focus on investigative, critical journalism and our exploration of how it can be funded without compromising editorial independence through advertising or ‘advertorial’ (articles that have been paid for by businesses for promotional purposes).


Find out more

Hampshire and Isle of Wight STP – read it for yourself and share it with your friends, colleagues and families

Health Campaigns Together – crowd-sourced information on all STPs across the 44 ‘footprints’

Take Action by 24th March 2017

Complete the Your Big Health Conversation online survey by 24th March 2017 and let local NHS leaders know what you think

Support campaigns calling for public information and involvement in NHS cuts

In Portsmouth

  • Contact your councillors and/or your MP to ask what they think – and what they’re doing – about the STP


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What Donna Can Learn From Donald

In the spirit of boosting the ‘special relationship’, Sir Eugene Nicks KBE of the All-Portsmouth Conservative, Regressive and Imperial Association (established 1799), celebrates the similarities between the leader of Portsmouth City Council and the new leader of the Free World.

Isn’t this a whizzo time to be alive, readers? Me old mucker and business partner Donald Trump’s doing sterling work as the Lord High Maniac-in-Chief of Ol’ Washington Town. How delightful that, right now, his pus-coloured mane is drooping all over the nuclear red button. He’ll probably be dribbling over it too, but that’s one of many problems of his that I vowed to keep confidential.

I may be the only man on Earth – while it’s still here, anyway – who is personal chums with both Donald and Donna, his near-namesake and counterpart over here as leader of Portsmouth City Council. In other words, I’m on excellent terms with the most powerful, egotistical and offensive person in the world… and Donald Trump. And I view this connection as what the Donald might call a ‘golden shower opportunity’ – I think that’s business jargon for something or other – to bring two great minds and two great cultures closer together as we enter an exhilarating new epoch of hope, freedom and tolerance. Or something to that effect.

The other night, Donna and I went for a goblet of benefit claimant’s blood at our local public house, the Hypothermic Vagrant. (Incidentally, there was an actual vagrant dying of hypothermia just by the bins outside. He asked me for the price of a cup of tea and I replied, ‘I only have fifty pound notes, old boy.’ But I didn’t give him one, obviously.)

Anyway, Donna asked me what advice on statecraft she might pass on to Donald via yours truly.

Donald at Victorious 2016, crowd-surfing outside the Young Conservatives’ tent. Image courtesy of S&C’s visual satirist, Jack Caramac.

‘But my dear lady,’ I begged to differentiate. ‘Ask not what he can learn from you but what you can learn from he. For Donald has disgraced himself in ways you cannot imagine and stooped to lows that even you have not nightmared of.’

Now humility isn’t normally Donna’s strong suit… which is why she screamed ‘That’s nonsense!’ in my face. But then she calmed down, the blood working its way to her head, and elected to hear me out. I’ve been in the political game a long time, recall, and I know it as well as the back of my hand, or even as well as the backhander that plops into my mailbox each morning because I shamelessly blackmail every single elected representative from here to the post-apocalyptic badlands of Wymering.

I reminded Donna that we Portsmouth Tories have done it all – well done them all, more or less: the unemployed, the disabled, the homeless, refugees, old people, young people, tall people, small people. But we haven’t been tough enough on the old enemy: the dastardly denizens of Southampton. So I suggested Donna re-purpose one of Donald’s classic raps but along these lines:

‘When Southampton sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us [sic] They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.’

And if that wasn’t tough enough, I said to Donna, how about this:

‘I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our western border, and I will make Southampton pay for that wall. Mark my words.’

Or we may go even further with something like the following:

‘Donna J Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Southamptonians entering Portsmouth, until our city’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.’

‘But remember,’ said Donna, ‘that it’s not just the social undesirables and the people of Southampton who cause us headaches. We have dangerous political subversives who dare to question our fanatical devotion to austerity.’

‘Indeed,’ I concurred. ‘What about politely borrowing another Trumpian pearl of odium?’

Sisters Uncut are crude, rude, obnoxious and dumb – other than that I like them very much.’

Donna seemed to enjoy that one. I put it to her that, as all Portsmouth Tories know, foreigners – ones even more foreign than people from Southampton – are irredeemably awful. Amongst many many other things, they bring disease. With that in mind, Donna ought to adapt something else Donald’s said in the recent past:

‘Stop the Ebola patients from entering Portsmouth. Treat them, at the highest level, over there. Portsmouth has enough problems.’

We looked out the window at the inclement weather. ‘I wish it would improve,’ Donna sighed.

I told her that Donald has a spiffing one-liner that she might re-write and make her own:

‘It’s freezing and snowing in Portsmouth – we need global warming!’

‘I’m not going out there,’ Donna said. ‘I might mess up my hair.’

I pointed out to her that Donald also cares deeply about his hair and that this too might be a point of agreement betwixt the pair of them:

‘As everybody knows, but the haters and losers refuse to acknowledge, I do not wear a “wig.” My hair may not be perfect but it’s mine.’

It was getting late and time to meet my driver Melania – no relation to Donald or I – in the car park. As we parted company, I asked Donna how she manages to cope with the pressures of her high office.

When I think I’m right,’ she said, ‘nothing bothers me.’

Eerie, I thought, Donald said exactly the same thing in 1985. How similar they are. I’ve yet to see them in the same place at the same time. Have you?


Main image: Screenshot from Saint Hoax‘s #ElectionsDragYouOut series, Donald Trump

Rugby Read: Poor Performance from Portsmouth Brings Defeat Against Twickenham

S&C Rugby Correspondent William Payne reports on last week’s match against Twickenham as injury strikes the Pompey RFC team once again.

There were more woes for Portsmouth this week, as players’ injuries saw Stuart Davies, Luke Richardson, Darren Crabb and Curtis Barnes all ruled out until the end of the season.

Kick off against Twickenham was delayed till 3:10 due to traffic that delayed Pompey’s arrival, but the late start was little help to the team as Twickenham scored their 4th bonus point try within the first 20 minutes of the game.

Despite the odds against them, Portsmouth secured 3 points off a good kick from Andy Barnes, after a stellar run from Luke Peters. At the end of the first half, the score was 31-3 to Twickenham.

At the end of the first half it was clear Portsmouth needed to pull their socks up and power on through to win the game. With four key players ruled out, the team faced a hard task, but were pushing through to put up a good fight.

10 minutes in to the second half, Portsmouth was playing a more controlled game with better overall attacking force through the forwards. After a good grubber kick, Andy Barnes touched the ball down under the posts and converted it, making it 31-10 to Twickenham.

Moments later, Elliot Worrall bundled over from a 5-metre scrum, but to the confusion of the crowd, the Referee gave the try as a penalty, bringing the score to 31-17.

Could a comeback be on the cards for Pompey?

Unfortunately, no.

Portsmouth finished the game as it started, conceding 3 late tries to make it 52-17 to the home side.

Poor discipline on both teams saw Twickenham awarded with 3 yellow cards and Portsmouth with 2 – one for Jackson Clarke and one for Rob Gicquel.

Overall, this was by far one of Portsmouth’s worst games this season. That said, and to take a positive from the defeat, Portsmouth need to work hard on the mistakes from this and previous matches to come back fighting for the games ahead.

Today Portsmouth welcomes a strong Warlingham side, currently sitting in 12th place.

William Payne will be back in a couple of weeks with a slow sports report Rugby Read reviewing the team’s progress. In the meantime, get along to the games or follow live updates over at Portsmouth RFC’s twitter feed.

Photography by Lesley Gicquel.

STAR POems: 100 Ways to Lose Yourself

By Suzanne Toogood


Drink wine, beer, spirits that cheer,

go on a bike ride, watch the tide, admire Gay Pride,

read a book, be spooked by a spook, try not to look,

don’t get hooked.


Go to the zoo, catch flu, listen to the blues, sew,

cook, spy a rook, or a crow, a sparrow, or a tit,

act like a git.


Go to a show, wear a giant bow, pretend you don’t know,

go slow, jive, tango, eat a mango, do the splits,

back flips, get nits.


Love snow, winds that blow, feelings that glow,

mow the lawn, get up at dawn, go out in a storm,

mourn, feel drawn, pawn your watch, more Scotch.


Take a hike, beat fear of a mike, fish for pike,

beat the clock, sit on the dock, eat jellied eels,

kneel in church, with a hassock, so won’t ache, make.


Smile, look, see, hear, enjoy the scent, the senses,

the sexes, the kids, blow your lid, just stop in the midst.


Buy a frock, think outside the box, cut your locks, smoke,

find a bloke, try coke and get stoned, unadvised,

don’t be naive, ignore strife, get a life.


Have a laugh, or a bath, with incense, with candles,

buy Victorian door handles, Indian sandals, paint toes,

plant rows of peas, sneeze, brain freeze.


Go for a sail, sick over the rail, ride on a whale,

wear a veil, fail, tell the tale, get into jail, get bale,

rail, become a male.


Become a child, go wild, smell the flowers, the coffee,

float like a butterfly, have a lobotomy, plant a tree, drink tea,

get angry, feel free.


January 2017.

STAR POem: New Road – a la Kelly’s Directory, 1972

By John Pearson


New Road, place of the Doll’s Hospital

with Jack Grant Racing to Parham and Sons

furniture removals shifting towards Marriott’s,

upholsterers, lino and carpet dealers.


Mile End School of Motoring driving

people to the New Road Wine Store

and the Salutation taking in the

sweet scent of Madam’s Blooms.


Bennett’s musical instruments muted

by the Knit Two wool shop, patterned

and peddled by Carter and Hall, cycle agents,

in tandem the Christian Bookshop – bible depot.


Paige’s fishing tackle dealers

reeling in patients of Dr McLeod,

family GP, physician, and surgeon,

prescriptions written out by his wife.


Burma Bill of the launderette washing

the blood-stained whites of Eaton, A, butcher.

DM Décor supplying white paint and wall paper,

hiding the sordid cracks of Buckland.


Arthur’s Fish Bar alongside Pearson and Sons

respectable printers, stationers, and bookbinders

collated with Miss Gibbs the second-hand bookseller,

cat lover and member of the RSPCA.


Harry Hewitt, proprietor of the pawnbroker’s,

uncle to the great unwashed of Buckland

who spent their money at the Stag Hotel

and the Mermaid Public House.


Finally, along this once prosperous road

we wind up with Robin Martin, watchmaker,

clock repairer and the gate-keeper of time

opposite Baker, Wm J Parochial Cemetery Gate Keeper.

Rugby Read: Charlton Park Dominate Next Round of Intermediate Cup

Last Saturday saw Portsmouth travel to Charlton Park to play in the next round of the Intermediate Cup. Pompey players and fans both knew that a win today would put them one step closer to the final at Twickenham. Unfortunately Charlton Park also knew that. S&C rugby correspondent Will Payne reports.

The home team kicked off and after strong pressure from Pompey, the team won a penalty near the line. A good forward move saw the ball move out to Fookes who knocked it on.

Charlton Park took a 5-0 lead five minutes in, winning the ball back and running half the length of the pitch for a good try out wide. The side applied more and more pressure and after a successful grubber their winner went over, making it 10-0 after a missed conversion attempt.

Halfway through the first half, Park piled on the forward pressure, scoring their 3rd try and grabbing the kick to make it 17-0. From a scrum, Park managed to increase their lead with their 4th try, making it 24-0 with five minutes left to play.

With tensions starting to rise and Pompey under pressure, Portsmouth won a penalty in the attacking half, gaining another ten metres for back chat from the Park players. Never a proud moment in the great game of rugby, a Charlton Park player received a yellow card for hitting Jackson Clark.

Portsmouth then lost the resultant scrum, meaning Park could kick the ball out to end the half.

With Park playing so well, Portsmouth would have to work hard to get back in the game. In the second half, the team would need to dig deep to claw back a victory.

Straight in to the second half, Luke Simons blocked and regathered a Park clearance attempt, and went over to make it 5-24.

At 46 minutes in, Park utilised their pack power once again, driving Pompey back about ten metres before firing the ball out wide and scoring their 5th try, making the score 31-5. Soon after, they won a questionable penalty for a high tackle, and took it quickly, going over for their 6th try and bringing the score to 36-5 after a missed conversion.

Following a series of effective attacking play, Gareth Richards found Luke Simmons with a beautiful long pass that allowed him to go over in the corner and lift the Pompey score to 10-36 after another miss kick.

A second Park player was yellow carded from a high tackle, after an excellent attack from the Pompey side. Ryan Wilkie capitalised on the opportunity, scoring wide out at 15-36, with four minutes left to play. But Park had the final say of the game, scoring on the brink of the final whistle and making the final score 43-15 to the home team.

Portsmouth got back in the game too late this week, facing an uphill struggle after Park scored four times in the first half. The team can take some commiseration as the moral victors of the match, with two Park players binned for showing a lack of discipline.

Next week will see Portsmouth’s League battle continue with an away game at Twickenham, who are currently 4th. It’ll be a tough match, but if the team improve on last week’s problems, they could come home with more than a moral victory next time.

Image credit: Lesley Gicquel

STAR POem: Edward King – Artist

By John Pearson


On used scraps of board,

paint brush strokes

made their mark –

the silent aftermath

of a city scarred,

blitzed, battered and burned;

rubble piled high in streets,

glass splinters, heaps of plastered bricks,

floor-boards, door frames –

decades of honest Portsmouth dust.


Away from war-damage

you painted your St James’ home.

Boiler-room chimney stack

shading the glint of sunlight

on swimming pool roof windows;

horse-drawn carts clop slowly

past green-plumed poplars and

neat, squat, leather-leaved cabbages

on parade in languid lines

leaning toward Portsdown Hill.


Even the shanty-town High Street

of Milton Locks caught your eye –

tethered, weathered hulks,

black, bitumen-basted boats

surrounded by sea-weeded gardens;

gang-planked and gated

rows of Romany-like maritime caravans –

homes for bombed-out people

sifted and saved from Portsmouth’s ashes,

your legacy preserved in oils.


June 2016

Rugby Read: Another Loss for Portsmouth

Rugby correspondent, William Payne, reports on another week of injury and loss for the beleaguered Portsmouth RFC.

Last week saw Portsmouth welcome 7th place London Exiles, a team they had previously defeated 17-20 in a hard-fought game, but this PRFC were facing some challenges. The team were without 3 of their best: Darren Crabb with a shoulder injury, Stewart Davies with a leg injury and Curtis Barnes, who has been advised to take 6 months off rugby due to the serious head injury he picked up the previous week.

From the kick-off, Portsmouth started well, but the Exiles managed to convert a break away try, making it 7-0 within 7 minutes.

After the restart, the Portsmouth pack managed to dominate in the Exile’s half, seeing Jackson Clark go over, and making it 5-7 after the missed conversion and 14 minutes played.

But before they had a chance to get into their stride, injury struck the Portsmouth team again. Luke Richardson was hit in the face from a high tackle – missed somehow by the official – and Jack Easterbrook came on as the replacement.

Excellent defence from the Exiles saw them keep Pompey out, and they managed to turn that effective back line into a prominent attack, scoring in the 25th and the 32nd minute, making it 5-17 after missing both conversions.

The best the Portsmouth team managed to deliver in the rest of the half was a penalty converted by Morgan, making it 8-17 at the end.

Although a recognised risk of the game, it’s a tragedy for a player when injured playing the sport they love, and in recent weeks it seems as though Portsmouth can’t seem to get a break from such injuries. Although the depth of the squad shone through this week, with excellent replacements being made, Portsmouth would once again have to dig deep in the second half.

The team started well at 4 minutes in as Morgan converted a penalty, closing the gap to 11-17.

But the Exiles bounced straight back to score their 4th (bonus point) try, and after a successful conversion the score stood at 11-24, at 7 minutes in.

Simon Morgan followed with a well-worked try and though he was tackled, managed to get back on his feet and go over, making it 16-24 after a missed kick.

As a result of some poor decision making from Portsmouth, at 23 minutes in Exiles managed to capitalise and extend their lead to 16-29. Even though Portsmouth kept pressing on, this remained the final score at close of play. The team’s misfortune with recent injuries has affected their ability to hold together good play or to set properly at defence.

Following on from this week’s result, Portsmouth stay at 9th in the table on 32 points, with Exiles moving up to 5th place. Effingham and Leatherhead n0w sit in 10th, just 8 points behind Pompey. The next league tie is in two weeks’ time when Portsmouth play Twickenham.

Next week Portsmouth will travel to Charlton Park for the Intermediate Cup semi-final. A coach has been arranged with capacity to take supporters, so make sure to get down and support the lads. In the meantime, best wishes from the S&C team to all the players recovering from injuries this week.

Rugby Read: Game Abandoned After Injury and Poor Conditions

An ambulance called, a player taken away with an injury and poor pitch conditions following bad weather saw Portsmouth’s game abandoned against London Cornish after 64 minutes, reports S&C Rugby Correspondent, Will Payne.

The away match with London Cornish took place on a bitterly cold day on Cornish’s second team pitch. Despite the eventual decision to abandon the game, a lot of credit must go to the players from both teams for their undisputed hard work in giving the spectators a great game for 64 minutes.

Cornish set the match off to a great start, scoring in the 13th minute and then again in the 28th, converting one and getting another penalty,  leaving the half time score at 15-0.

There was little additional action than these two scores in the first half, with the poor pitch conditions following snow the previous night making it hard for both teams to attack.

Portsmouth’s attacking play in the first half was no easy feat, but London Cornish – the team at the top of the league – were just too hard to break down.

For the first 15 minutes of the second half Portsmouth dominated possession, but failed to get past the immense wall that was London Cornish.

Unfortunately, Captain Darren Crabb and Full Back Stuart Davies were forced off after picking up injuries, who were then replaced by Finn Parry and player coach Ben Dudley.

Portsmouth were doing well to keep Cornish out, but in the 61st minute they manged to go over and convert making the score 22-0.

In the 63rd minute, Cornish’s new signing Christopher Kolapo-Ajala scored again, making it 29-0 and securing that all important bonus point.

From the following kick off, Portsmouth went on the attack, Curtis Barnes cut a great line but was caught at the last second with an ankle tap. Unfortunately, it looked as though Curtis had suffered a serious injury and an ambulance was called. With no other pitch in a condition to play on, after consultation from both coaches and captains, the match was abandoned.

Following multiple scans at the hospital, PRFC confirmed to us that no injuries had been sustained to Curtis’ neck, although he had suffered a concussion as a result of the fall. He will now attend multiple meetings to make sure he is fully fit again, and will follow the RFU concussion protocol before playing again.

From everyone at Star & Crescent, we all wish Curtis Barnes a very speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him back on the pitch with his team mates.

The decision on replaying the abandoned game went to the RFU Competitions Committee, which released the following statement:

‘It is clear that the game was abandoned due to injury and in agreement with both clubs and the referee.

13.6.7 b ii has been compiled with, it is not in the interest of the game or either clubs to request that the fixture be played at a later date.’

This means the score will stand. Portsmouth’s next game is at home on the 18th February against London Exiles, who are currently 7th in the league. After the loss to London Cornish, Portsmouth sit at 9th place, 10 points clear of Andover.

Is Austerity Bad For Portsmouth’s Mental Health?

S&C Contributing Editor, Maddie Wallace, reports on the impact of austerity on mental health services in Portsmouth and across the country.

In 2012, amidst much media fanfare, David Cameron set out his vision for ‘Parity of Esteem‘ between mental and physical health. The Health and Social Care Act decreed that ailments of the mind and illnesses of the body would be equally valued, and in 2016 the Conservative party congratulated themselves for making Britain a country that works ‘not for a privileged few, but for every one of us’. Five years down the line from David Cameron’s vision, and it’s hard to imagine a political party more out of touch with the current mental health crisis in this country, a crisis they have arguably played a significant part in creating.

…we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.

Theresa May, 13th July 2016

In her annual lecture to the Charity Commission on 9th January, Theresa May praised the work of mental health charity Mind, yet failed to mention not only the closures of local centres Mind have had to endure under her party’s austerity policies – including in Portsmouth – but also that it was Mind who warned in 2013 that those policies were creating a mental health crisis.

In the final quarter of 2010, there were 23,607 mental health beds in the UK. By 2016, there were 18,820, a reduction of nearly 5,000.  It’s a similar story for the number of psychiatric nurses in the NHS : 41,320 in 2010 – 36,870 in 2016.

It is worth asking if these statistics can be explained by something other than the cuts: is demand for mental health services decreasing, or has our treatment of mental illness improved?

Sadly, no it isn’t. And no, it hasn’t.

The Conservatives are not responsible for every mental health condition in the UK, but it is hard to argue that austerity has not had an impact, through:  benefit cuts, sanctions, closures of community based organisations like Sure Start, the bedroom tax, zero hours contracts and reductions to pensioners’ services, for example.  The sweeping reform of welfare benefits alone led the United Nations to report in June 2016 that the government’s policy was a breach of international human rights for those with disabilities. While incidences of mental illness and demand for services have increased by 20% under the Conservative administration, severe cuts to those services, and to the budgets of mental health charities, means fewer people are able to access the help they need.

What does this mean for Portsmouth, in terms of mental health incidence and services?

According to the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment Briefing Note, issued by the city council and the Clinical Commissioning Group:

‘There is a strongly positive correlation between deprivation and people aged 18+ years receiving services for mental health problems from Adult Social Care’.

Portsmouth is ranked 63rd out of 326 local authorities for deprivation, with 26,000 Portsmouth residents living ‘within the 10 most deprived English small areas’. Wards such as ‘Charles Dickens, Paulsgrove, Cosham and St Thomas wards [experience] the highest deprivation in the city, and poorer wellbeing’. ‘24% of children in the city live in poverty compared to 20% in England’ and ‘over half of older people in the most deprived areas live in poverty’.

According to the council’s mental health strategy for 2016-2021, ‘Mental health problems are common. In the population of Portsmouth that equates to around 52,879 people experiencing a mental health problem each year’.

Why, then, are further cuts being made to vital mental health services within the city?

In December, Portsmouth Counselling Service shut its doors to clients after 23 years of providing a unique service to local people, offering support for drug and alcohol misuse, domestic violence, depression and anxiety, trauma, and providing specific counselling for ethnic minorities. Saving a miracle, it will cease to exist by March.

Portsmouth City Council withdrew funding from the service 2 years ago, and at the end of last year, the Clinical Commissioning Group followed suit, prompting residents and the local Lib Dem and Labour parties to campaign for a change in the rules around the council’s Public Sector Challenge Fund, which would allow further investment in Portsmouth Counselling Service. With almost £500,000 still in the pot, the council voted in December to allow changes to the rules which would enable Portsmouth Counselling Service to apply for further funding, however so far this has proved problematic, with Cllr Luke Stubbs admitting in an email exchange with me in January that things are still ‘in a state of flux’.

According to the charity’s director, David Miles, Portsmouth Counselling Service ‘Only needs core funding of £60,000 a year’. This would enable the charity to operate its service, and then apply for extra grants and funding from other providers. When the council can afford to spend £80,000 over 5 years just cleaning the windows of the civic offices, or £95,000 per year replacing the blinds inside the building, questions have to be asked as to where the city council’s priorities truly lie.

Within weeks of the Clinical Commissioning Group announcing it was withdrawing funding from Portsmouth Counselling Service, local youth mental health provider Off The Record also revealed it was being forced to close due to a reduction in local government funding. The service has been in operation since 1977, and provides support and counselling for 3500 young people aged 11-25 in Portsmouth each year. Given that the council’s own Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy claims that ‘Growing up in poverty has a significantly negative impact on health and wellbeing outcomes for children and has the potential to expose children to more risk factors’, continuing to provide funding for a vital youth mental health service might be seen as a core priority for the local authority.

Unfortunately, Portsmouth’s experience is reflective of the national picture. While the government continues to spin soundbites on the importance of mental health, their policies continue to devastate the lives of those suffering from mental health issues. Meanwhile, the vicious cycle of austerity, cuts and financial insecurity is making more and more people ill, and reliant on the very services the Tories are scything through with blades sharpened on the wheel of corporate tax avoidance.

The national crisis in mental health has prompted Psychologists Against Austerity (PAA) – a campaign group whose members include Clinical and Counselling Psychologists, Academic and Research Psychologists, Educational Psychologists and Forensic Psychologists, as well as trainees, other health care professionals and community members – to produce a damning report on the damage caused by Conservative policies based, they claim, ‘On robust and longstanding psychological evidence’.

PAA outline key areas or ‘ailments’, where government policies directly cause, or influence, greater hardship for those who are already struggling under the weight of austerity: Humiliation and shame, fear and mistrust, instability and insecurity, isolation and loneliness, being trapped and powerless.

The group claim:

People living in particularly deprived circumstances are likely to be exposed to situations that have elements of all of these ailments. Many austerity policies, such as harsh benefit sanctions, are likely to produce experiences that have more than one of these features. These experiences can also intertwine and coalesce to compound experiences of distress over time.

Psychologists Against Austerity, The Psychological Impact of Austerity

In other words, more and more people are experiencing mental illness because the pressures of living under austerity are creating situations where their lives have become unstable, or even untenable. For example, many people, although in work, are employed on zero hours contracts, and do not know from one week to the next how many hours they will work and what they will earn, let alone have any entitlement to sick and holiday pay. They exist in a constant state of uncertainty which is at best mentally exhausting, and at worst, extremely detrimental to mental health.

Psychologists Against Austerity claim that: ‘Robust research has established that job insecurity has damaging effects on both individual employees, and organisations. The more insecure the job, the higher levels of mental distress and physical health complaints found in employees’.

The number of people on zero hours contracts increased from just under 200,000 in 2009 to over 900,000 in 2016. It’s hard to argue anything other than that ordinary people are once again bearing the brunt of government policies which don’t have their best interests at heart. According to research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation cited by PAA, under Conservative austerity policies, in 2014 poor people in work outnumbered poor people out of work for the first time ever.

And for those people claiming benefits, the implications for mental health are equally concerning. In 2013, the DWP was reprimanded by the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee for releasing misleading information and statistics, particularly in the way figures were presented to the press. It can equally be argued that the mainstream media has been complicit with the government and the DWP in presenting a negative view of benefits claimants that serves to undermine the public’s confidence in the social security system.

Government statistics should be used objectively to shed light on policy implementation, not to prop up established views and preconceptions. DWP should set out the specific steps it is taking to ensure that statistics are released in a way which is accurate, and fair to benefit claimants.
Work and Pensions Committee, March 2014

For instance, research from the University of Kent showed that 30% of media stories discussing benefits focus on fraud, despite the fact that the fraud rate is only 0.5-3%. The researchers’ analysis of media coverage of benefits in national newspapers from 1995 to 2011 found that ‘while newspapers contain both positive and negative representations of claimants, the content of press stories is indeed skewed towards negative representations.’

The Conservative Government has relied on the – knowing or unknowing – complicity of the mainstream media in painting a bleak picture for the necessity of its austerity policies to a myopic British public. According to the Media Reform Coalition, six corporations now own 80% of local newspapers, 2 radio conglomerates have control of over 40% of independent radio licenses, and just 3 companies now dominate 71% of the national newspaper market.  In cutting funding to mental health services since 2010, and in failing to address the financial uncertainty affecting the lives of millions – for example through a fairer taxation system – the Conservative austerity agenda has exacerbated the mental health crises of many in the UK.

Listening to Theresa May pledge to address the ‘stigma’ of mental health feels as if the government has suddenly woken up after a bad dream and just needs a good, strong coffee to get them through the day. But like all dreams, the government’s mental health crisis has an underlying reason at its root, something eating away at its subconscious that needs to be dealt with.

In the case of mental health in the UK, and as a day to day reality for many of those suffering, the nightmare is austerity.

UPDATED 13th February: Following the submission of this article, the writer received the following statement from Cllr Luke Stubbs: 

The council has finally concluded a deal to preserve adult counselling services. A public statement will be made about this, probably on Tuesday [14th February 2017].

UPDATED 14th February: Announcement of award to YOU Trust of £50,000 from PCC’s voluntary sector transition fund which will allow it to continue the work previously undertaken by Portsmouth Counselling Service, including retaining the counselling service’s former volunteers.

This report is part of S&C’s renewed focus on investigative, critical journalism and our exploration of how it can be funded without compromising editorial independence through advertising or ‘advertorial’ (articles that have been paid for by businesses for promotional purposes). All of our writers work for S&C for free, supported by a team of 2 volunteers currently giving 4 days a week to S&C unpaid. If you would like to see more in-depth coverage of local issues and news, please consider supporting our work as a donor or a volunteer, following the links below.

Find out more

Get involved

  • Submit your experiences of how the cuts have affected you and/or the people you work with to Psychologists Against Austerity’s Everyday Austerity project
  • Take part in the government’s consultation on ‘Work, health and disability’ seeking views on what it will take to transform employment prospects for disabled people – submit your views by 17th February 2017
  • Ask your councillor about plans to make the £500,000 funding in Portsmouth City Council’s Public Sector Challenge Fund more accessible to local voluntary sector organisations struggling with the impact of austerity
  • Ask your MP what she is doing to address the impact of austerity on Portsmouth residents suffering from ill mental health

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