By Peter Corfield,

Chairman of League of Friends of Ludlow, and Health campaigner,

 Over recent years the public has been inundated with "initiatives”, proposed by various governments of differing political hues. Invariably they are written in a strange, almost foreign, language unintelligible unless the reader has an appropriate degree or a professional background. 

These proposals, mainly unnoticed by the vast majority, reach the stage where "public consultation" takes place and great weight is attached to the response. 

 A white paper "Our health, our care, our say" on 30th January 2006 announced a new direction for Community Services, following a nationwide consultation. A total of 29,808 responses to the consultation came from all parts of the country - less than 0.9%, and recently in Shropshire, Powys and Telford & Wrekin less than 5% responded to the Future Fit consultation.

These consultations clearly are not reaching or attracting the public interest, probably because of the style or content of the message.

 It is surely the duty of the Health and Social Care Departments to educate the public at large to ensure that the service is properly configured and understood. The people want services that are based around their needs and are closer to where they live, provided these services are also safe and cost effective. 

A total of 90% of people’s contacts with health services are made outside of acute hospitals, and it must be at this first point of contact that the information and education is most needed.

 Community Hospitals and GPs have been at the very heart of the founding principles of the NHS, and together with the voluntary sector, there is clearly an immediate opportunity to provide community facilities accessible to all - otherwise access delayed is access denied!

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