Place Scrutiny: health tourism, faith and failing schools

And so, to People Scrutiny Committee, and a full house from the Conservatives (unlike at Place). It began with a plea from the UKIP chair, Cllr Moyies, for brevity and an avoidance of technical terms: sounded like he was admitting that he was not up to the job.

The first question on the item A&E Performance came from Cllr Folkard (Conservative, Chalkwell) who proceeded to give his best UKIP impersonation when asking a number of questions about health tourism. It is tempting to speculate that Cllr Folkard believes that local difficulties are down to foreigners over here, monopolising our germs, etc. I sought some clarification on the issue, as well as making it clear that I believed we had a duty to treat the ill, regardless of their nationality. (I do wonder what sort of message Cllr Folkard intends to send out to the tourists the town aspires to attract.)

Whilst the CQC does keep a track of those in default as regards to payments to the local NHS, it cannot differentiate between those who fall ill whilst here, and those already ill who travel specifically for treatment. I should be noted that Cllr Folkard did not seek clarification on this point – his determination to peddle the latest scare story evidently overriding any attempt at seeking a balanced view.

There are no figures showing how many of Southend’s residents seek treatment whilst abroad. Cllr Crystall (Liberal Democrat, Leigh) said that the board had had sight of the figures on this issue. Cllr Moyies, from the chair, believed these numbers were important (quelle surprise).

Some statistics regarding A&E performance were circulated showing the performance over the last twelve months. It looked dire for the autumn and winter months, which is why Southend University Hospital A&E Departments was, at one point, rated the very worst in the UK. The two representatives could not guarantee that this would not be repeated in the coming months, although they did say that measures had been taken to try to avoid a repeat.

The Outcome of Consultation on the Permanent Expansion of Primary Places in Southend perturbed me. Two faith schools (Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School and St Helen’s Catholic Primary School) are getting public money to fund their expansion. I am opposed to any segregation at any level of education, and this is why I am opposed to this. By all means teach faith (and non-faith), but let’s teach all of our children together. I had an unlikely ally in the guise of Cllr Moyies on this issue.

The item School Organisation Data Supplement 2014 covered a report with all sorts of data within it, except what I think the most important – the effects of poverty. I will separately ask for this data. Whilst I want to see improving schools, it is vital that this reaches all social groups. I am concerned that there is a significant educational underclass in Southend-on-Sea.

I cannot report much from the Schools Progress Report (as it confidential), but I can report the following:

Nearly a quarter (23.4%) of those at a secondary school in the borough attend a school described as inadequate. A further 7.7% attend a school that Ofsted assert requires improvement. This means that nearly a third (31.1%) of all secondary school children in Southend-on-Sea are at a school that is described as below ‘Good’. This is an appalling state of affairs, appalling.

The meeting lasted two and a half hours. This is my version of events, not minutes or a verbatim record. Of course it is biased.

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