Brexit and the NHS

In this week’s Whitehaven News Roger Putum responds to a letter concerning the NHS and Brexit.

Roger Putnam

To the Editor
Whitehaven News

Letter for Whitehaven News March 19th 2018.

BREXIT and the NHS.

Mr Fisher (Letters March 8th) suggests there is no link between the future of the NHS and the BREXIT decision. Here are three reasons why he is wrong.

Firstly, the NHS and all other public services already face a worsening financial crisis. The ‘leaked’ government figures, produced in January (‘EU Exit Analysis – Cross-Whitehall briefing’), predict a further substantial fall in UK economic performance following BREXIT, with an inevitable knock-on effect on funding for the NHS. The “no deal” BREXIT scenario, under which the UK reverts to World Trade Organization rules, would reduce UK growth by 8%. Indeed, the North-West is predicted to be 12% worse off, the third worst region in the UK. These calculations do not take into account other hits to the economy from BREXIT, such as the cost of adjusting to new customs arrangements.

There is no prospect of Boris Johnson’s predicted £350 million a week BREXIT saving reaching the NHS, as he now admits. Instead, on top of the further funding cuts being imposed on all local authorities responsible for care services (including Cumbria County Council) we are certain to see reductions in central NHS funding as economic performance suffers and the tax take falls.

Second, we note that it is proposed to remove the UK from the current Euratom arrangements. The Euratom treaty allows for closer EU scientific and medical co-operation and the rapid transfer between EU members of vital medical radio-isotopes used in NHS cancer treatments. Why spend years negotiating a less beneficial replacement treaty when we already have an effective system in place?

Third, consider the implications for NHS staffing. Around 10,000 EU nationals have quit the NHS and social care services since the EU referendum, including almost 4,000 nurses and 1,800 doctors. Many more are planning to leave. We can recognise the effects already; simply listen to the views of the professional organisations involved. One dire effect of these staffing shortages will be to make the future of our West Cumberland Hospital even more uncertain.

Lib Dems are now committed to providing the full £4 billion the NHS needs for 2018/2019, funded by a suitable increase in Income Tax, with an ‘NHS Passport’ to guarantee the rights of the other 50,000 EU health and care workers in the UK.

Mr Fisher asks for our Plan B. In fact the country faces a simple decision; Remain in the EU; or Leave. That is still the fundamental choice ahead, as most now recognise. As the damaging implications of Leave become ever more obvious, it would be prudent to re-examine the 2016 BREXIT decision, both at public and at parliamentary level. The patriotic choice is to remain and to play our full part in the European project, instead of staying on the sidelines with minimum influence. Future generations will not thank us if we get this wrong.

Roger Putnam
Secretary, West Cumbria Liberal Democrats
‘Bower Bank’ Irton
Cumbria, CA19 1 TD

Tel. 019467 23361

Key decisions which lie ahead

Roger Putnam writes in the Whitehaven News this week:

Roger PUTNAM  Secretary, West Cumbria Liberal Democrats
Generally in these columns we address matters relevant to us all locally . However there are some current overarching national issues which will have a major impact here. These include the future of the NHS, at present in financial turmoil, and our future UK relationship with Europe. Both are matters which can only be determined nationally but will have far-reaching effects for us in Copeland.
It is clear that the NHS requires root and branch reform. The challenge is to maintain an equitable health system for all, integrated with provision of effective care. This problem becomes more difficult with a steadily ageing population and the wish to give “parity of treatment” for those with mental as well as physical difficulties. The situation is complicated by the fact that provision for social care is the responsibility of Local Authorities, currently suffering the toughest cuts to funding in my adult life time.
All major political parties agree that reform is needed. The NHS remains chronically under-funded. Only the Liberal Democrats have committed to a dedicated new tax to be ring-fenced for the NHS and for social care to take us through the present crisis. However, more funding is not by itself a long-term solution to the problem. For the future, we have to develop a new, fully-integrated health and care system. Lib Dems have actively supported a cross-party Health and Social Care Convention, ensuring long term stability of funding and resources to provide such an integrated system. This should make sensible provision for the special needs of areas like ours, where health and hospital resources are so stretched.
Part of the problem for the NHS, especially for staffing, is directly related to current uncertainty over our future UK relationship with Europe. It is astonishing that 12 months after triggering the move to leave the EU, the government position remains unclear and inconsistent. Senior ministers constantly give out contradictory messages. If we want to gain full control over our borders, we are bound to have to leave the single market, which ensures freedom of movement for capital, trade, services and employment across the EU. We cannot, as the Foreign Secretary seems still to think, “have our cake and eat it.”
It becomes ever clearer  that we will pay a heavy price if we leave the EU, and especially if the UK withdraws completely from the Customs Union. The warning signs are many. They include recent comments by foreign car manufacturers about future investment; the future relationship between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic; concerns about employment safeguards, environmental, health and safety standards. Even the most recent government figures show that any new trade arrangements with Europe will be substantially worse than those we enjoy now. The problems of the NHS will be even greater.
This is why Lib Dems continue to argue, unlike Labour and the Conservatives, that before making this irreversible decision the public as well as Parliament should be asked for their final judgement on the effects of this damaging step. It is only fair to do this. This decision will affect every one of us.

Chair Elizabeth Barraclough in the Whitehaven News this week:

Liberal Democrats seek to create a fair, free and open society, which balances the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community. But our community can only flourish if members accept responsibilities as well as rights.

We can find many examples in our daily lives where we are responsible for enabling services to work more effectively. Take recycling of rubbish. The council asks us to separate out rubbish that can be re-used, so we have a paper bin and we put plastic, metals and glass ready to be separated and reused. Only with our help can these services be effective, and pollution of our rivers and seas be avoided.

Can we by responsible action save costs in other services as well? The service that is struggling to meet the growing needs of the community, after 75 years from the original 1942 report by the Liberal economist William Beveridge, is our much respected NHS. Almost every day we hear of funding difficulties somewhere in the country but we should recognise that much of the NHS budget is spent treating conditions caused by our lifestyle choices.

The cost of treating diabetes each year is £12.5bn, a tenth of the total NHS budget. Treating  liver diseases costs £3.5bn and smoking, despite the huge drop in the number of smokers is still costing more than £5bn to treat the diseases it causes. The NHS will always treat disease wherever it occurs and whatever the cause, but we can all  help to reduce the pressure on the service by choosing a better diet and lifestyle, whilst at the same time enjoying our lives more.

What we really need is help and information from Public Health services but don’t expect much as Public Health has recently been given back to under-funded local councils but without provision of any additional  funds. So can we within the community in our own lives each make the changes that will help the NHS and make living more enjoyable?

Can you as a parent replace the coke and fanta your children drink by water or orange juice and only have chips on special occasions? Can you personally see a way to live more healthily and enjoy feeling fit?

Christmas is an appropriate time to examine again how we can all find ways to strengthen our communities. Not just by giving to the multitude of good causes which appeal to us for help at this time, but also by making adjustments in the way we co-operate with each other in our local communities to help them operate more effectively.

Despite all the setbacks and difficulties which politicians of all parties seek to tackle, much will always remain the responsibility of each individual.

West Cumbria Liberal Democrats wish all your readers a Happy Festive Season!

For more information, contact the West Cumbria Lib Dems on 01768772771 or on the website at

Maternity Care in Whitehaven – Ongoing Concerns

Cllr. Rebecca Hanson writes in the Whitehaven News today:

During the Success Regime consultation on local Health Services earlier in 2017 I published a report highlighting the substantial risks which will be created if consultant-led maternity services in Whitehaven are closed and hundreds of women each year are required to travel an hour or more to Carlisle to give birth.

In May I was elected as a Liberal Democrat County Councillor and I joined the Health Scrutiny Committee – giving me the opportunity to cross-examine health bosses. I recently used this position to have it publicly confirmed that the Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will still make the decision on whether or not to end consultant-led maternity care in Whitehaven without taking fully into account the risks that ending this service will create.

Consultant-led care will end if safe medical staffing in Whitehaven is not deliverable and sustainable. This is madness. Clearly there are risks associated with having fragile staffing in Whitehaven, but these are risks we have been living with for years already, and they are small compared with the risks arising when large numbers of women have to travel long distances to give birth. The newly established Independent Review Group has been requested to assess the risks associated with women having to travel to Carlisle or Barrow, but as I understand it there is then no route by which any comments they make can influence whether or not consultant-led care ends in Whitehaven.

In March the Health Scrutiny Committee referred the decision on maternity care to the Secretary of State for Health (Jeremy Hunt). We are now expecting Hunt’s decision any day. Before he took office in 2013, proposals to close maternity services where significant numbers of women would have to travel over 20 miles were refused by the Secretary of State on safety grounds. However, since 2013 all referrals on the closure of services have been rejected without the cases associated with them being heard.

Jeremy Hunt could act to ensure that there is a mechanism by which the closure of consultant-led maternity care in Whitehaven can be prevented if this is found by the Independent Review Group to be much more risky than keeping services open. If he fails to do this it is essential that our local action groups work quickly to challenge his decision in the courts and I would strongly encourage everyone to support and encourage them.

At the Working Together Group last Thursday it was suggested that the CCG could intervene to establish that the decision about whether or not to close consultant-led care will be made on the basis of which option presents the least risk to mothers. If Jeremy Hunt refuses to address this issue it is essential that the CCG does so rapidly and publicly if they want to demonstrate that they are serious about acting in the public interest. They could, in doing so, prevent a high-profile legal battle which will further damage public trust.

Where are we now with Brexit?

Roger Putnam writes in this week’s Whitehaven News:

It is over 12 months since the UK voted narrowly to leave the EU, and 5 months since Mrs May triggered Article 50, setting the 2 year deadline for BREXIT for March 2019. Yet we see little progress in deciding the precise form that BREXIT should take.

We have still to agree on the rights Europeans in Britain and British residents in Europe should retain. The future of the border on the island of Ireland is deeply contentious. The size of the so-called UK ‘exit bill’, the amount the UK should pay for commitments already entered into, is highly controversial – not helped by juvenile comments from our Foreign Secretary, about ‘having our cake and eating it’ or suggesting the EU ‘go whistle’ for its money. Indeed, the ill-judged approach adopted by our ministerial negotiating team has been superficial and confrontational rather than seeking sensible compromise.

The true cost of leaving Europe becomes steadily clearer. The awesome complexity of ending a 44 year economic and political union, compounded by our serious lack of civil service and negotiating resources, will dominate parliamentary activity, at the cost of other much-needed legislation. The recent EU Withdrawal Bill will be followed by seven other major BREXIT bills in this parliament, covering immigration, agriculture, trade and customs.

The cost of separating from our EU trading partners, currently taking 44% of our exports, is now emerging. Such is the present level of uncertainty, economic growth is slowing dramatically whilst inflation erodes incomes; business and economic confidence and investment are suffering; the pound continues to fall against other currencies; major banks are already setting up alternative office hubs in other European capitals; NHS recruitment is falling dramatically; agriculture is deeply concerned about loss of seasonal European workers and loss of subsidy.

There are also 35 European regulatory bodies needing replacement. New UK bodies, covering medicines, aviation safety and financial services for example, will still need to replicate EU rules to maintain cross-border equivalence. A special issue here in Cumbria is the related decision to pull out of the Euratom treaty, which established the European Atomic Energy Commission. Wisely, the House of Commons Energy select committee is urging the Government to re-examine this, as it would entail disruption of supplies of reactor materials, nuclear fuel and medical isotopes vital for the treatment of cancer. Liberal Democrats are committed to remain within the Euratom Treaty.

These complex issues appear to have been ignored by too many ministers, blithely marching us toward consequences that they appear not to recognise. At the very least, we will require an extended transitional period to sort them all out, as now seems to be accepted by government. This period, in the view of the Liberal Democrats, should include a further public consultation and a comprehensive parliamentary debate including the option to remain within a reformed EU, rather than persisting with this deeply damaging BREXIT process, based on the ‘leave’ vote of just 37% of the electorate.

A final thought, from a recent newspaper letter; “The real monument to those who lost their lives at Passchendaele is not the Menin Gate, it’s the European Union. For the EU has been a damn sight more successful at stopping the pointless slaughter of Europeans.”

An Election campaign like no other.

We are coming to the end of a General Election campaign like no other. The absolutely vital issues in
Copeland, such as the future of our Health and Care services; the possible downgrading of the West
Cumberland Hospital; the desperate difficulties which will be faced by many schools; all these have been
overshadowed by too many over-riding questions about Mrs May, and her hard and negative attitude as
she sets out to determine our future relationship with our European neighbours.

Do not be misled into thinking that only the Conservatives can provide this country and this constituency
of Copeland with a positive and successful way forward. The Tory record on managing the NHS and our
Education service is appalling. And their headlong rush to cut our country off in every way from Europe,
such as reneging on the Euratom arrangements, is utterly wrong.

Our health and care services are in crisis. Schools are facing further massive cuts in funding. Yet this is the
sixth richest country in the world. At the heart of these problems lies the unwillingness of the government
to work towards a fairer society, with a level of taxation right across the community which will fund proper
public services.

The Lib Dems are absolutely committed to making life better and fairer for everyone. Only the Lib Dems
have a credible and costed plan to properly fund our public services and to fix their underlying problems.
Only the Lib Dems are fighting hard to limit the damaging effects of Brexit.

It has been a privilege to work with so many outstanding people in local schools, and in the ongoing
campaign to save proper services at West Cumberland Hospital. I have spent many years working hard
both professionally and personally to make things better. As your member of Parliament I could do so
much more. This election has not been just about one person, our Prime Minister, athough she has tried to
make it so. It is about all of us, the people, our Copeland community and our future together.

Rebecca Hanson
(West Cumbria Liberal Democrats).
Published and promoted by Roger Putnam on behalf of Rebecca Hanson (Liberal Democrats) at Bower Bank, Irton, HOLMROOK, Cumbria CA19 1TD

We are not electing a President!

Roger Putnam’s current letter in the Whitehaven News:

We are about to elect a government, not a President!
I recently received a remarkable personal election letter from our Prime Minister Mrs May. In this she set out her claim to deliver so-called  ‘strong and stable leadership’, but made no mention of the party which she leads. I can find no reference at all in this letter to the term ‘Conservative’.
This letter is the nearest any British party leader in my memory has come to requesting quasi-presidential powers, and not those appropriate to a democratic party leader answerable to parliament. Traditionally, the Prime Minister of Britain has been seen as ‘the first among equals’ and not the single arbiter of our national future.
The fact is that the next government cannot be solely concerned with the future relationship of Britain with Europe. We need to be wary of allowing a Conservative leader with a five year mandate to continue a programme which will further undermine the coherence and effectiveness of our education system, continue with the mismanagement of our precious NHS, ignore the needs of young people, and persist with the privatisation of key public services, such as prisons and probation, which should clearly remain in the public sector. Voters should realise the ongoing damage that presenting the Tories with a large majority will cause to our economy and to our communities, especially in needy areas.
What is more, Mrs May and her present Brexit team show few of the skills of negotiation needed to deal with the Brexit question. Her autocratic approach, so evident in her letter, is almost bound to secure a bad deal in leaving the European Union.
This momentous Brexit decision seems to me to be wholly mis-guided. It is not far-fetched but highly likely that it will lead to the acrimonious break-up of the UK, the further collapse of the exchange rate with consequent price inflation, and the departure of major companies and financial institutions to other locations in Europe if we continue on the present course. Surely we all, and especially the young, should have the final say. This momentous decision should certainly not be left to the judgement of the presidential Mrs May!
Roger Putnam
West Cumbria Liberal Democrats
‘Bower Bank’ Irton
Cumbria  CA19 1TD
Tel.  019467 23361

Rebecca Hanson for Copeland: General Election Candidate Profile.

Rebecca Hanson, 44, is a Liberal Democrat County Councillor and a well known health campaigner in West Cumbria who also has a successful career as a teacher, lecturer and education advisor.

Rebecca grew up in a deprived area of Newcastle but went on to study Mathematics and Management at Cambridge University. There she met a Cumbrian sheep farmer’s son who tempted her to move to the Copeland Constituency.

Rebecca taught mathematics in Copeland’s secondary schools and was the last Head of Mathematics at Ehenside School in Cleator Moor, which she helped to bring out of Special Measures.  Rebecca then went on to lecture in Education and consult on national education policies.  When the consultation process was shut down by Michael Gove she joined the Lib Dems and served on their national Education Association Committee where she worked tirelessly to reduce the damage of poor Tory education policy.

Rebecca now runs an education advisory business which provides highly regarded teacher training in primary schools across Cumbria.  She is also an experienced local Councillor and the elected Cumbria County Councillor for Cockermouth North.

Rebecca has been driving forward the challenge to the closure of maternity and paediatric services at West Cumberland Hospital by writing and publicising key risk assessments. She has used her political experience to change the minds of senior Health managers and NHS inspectors.

Rebecca has substantial experience of consulting on nuclear issues.  She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and, as one of their digital champions, she wrote a detailed analysis of the collapse of the consultation on how to deal with our nuclear waste.

Rebecca is married to one of the UK’s most experienced nuclear engineers.  They have 5 children between them.


Twitter: @hanson4copeland

Lib Dems will tackle the education funding crisis in Cumbria

Lib Dems will invest £42 million to protect school funding in Cumbria

The Liberal Democrats have announced they will invest over £42 million more in schools and colleges in Cumbria over the next parliament.

The funding for Cumbria would reverse cuts to frontline school and college budgets, protect per pupil funding in real terms and ensure no school loses out from changes to funding arrangements.

£2,735,000 of the funding would be spent on protecting the Pupil Premium, introduced by the Liberal Democrats to help the most disadvantaged children.

Rebecca Hanson, Parliamentary Candidate for Copeland said:

“Children in Cumbria are being taught in overcrowded classes by overworked teachers – but Theresa May doesn’t care.

“Under the Conservatives, funding per pupil is set to see the biggest cuts in a generation, while billions of pounds are being spent on divisive plans to expand grammar schools and free schools.

“This extra £42 million of funding would ensure no school and no child loses out.

“We will reverse crippling Conservative cuts to school budgets and invest to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

“I am personally appalled by the crisis in education and commit to do all in my power to support our schools in the future.”

Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron said:

“A landslide for the Conservatives would allow Theresa May to take parents across the country for granted and cut our schools to the bone.

“Only the Liberal Democrats can provide the strong opposition Britain needs to stand up for Cumbria.


Notes to Editors

The Liberal Democrats will invest £6.9bn more in our schools and colleges over the next parliament, to ensure no school and no child loses out. A breakdown of local figures on additional funding by local authority can be found here.

Over the course of the Parliament, we will:

  • Protect per pupil funding in real terms in schools (£3.31bn)
  • Protect further education per pupil funding in real terms (£660m)
  • Ensure no school loses out from the National Funding Formula (£1.26bn)
  • Protect the pupil premium in real terms (£415m)

These plans will be fully costed in the Liberal Democrat manifesto, which will be launched in due course and set all our spending plans out in more detail. This will include reversing the Government’s proposed funding for new grammar schools.

A report by the National Audit Office has found school budgets will be slashed by £3bn in real terms by 2019-20 – the equivalent to reducing spending by 8 per cent per pupil, under current government plans (link)

Rebecca Hanson, the Liberal Democrat Candidate for Copeland, taught in secondary schools in Copeland before becoming a Lecturer in Education and an Education Advisor.  She served on the Liberal Democrats Education Association Committee and worked to challenge Michael Gove’s education chaos for three years during the coalition government.


General Election Candidates Announcement

Date: Monday 8th May 2017

West Cumbria Liberal Democrats have announced their Parliamentary Candidates for Workington and Copeland.

Rebecca Hanson, who fought the recent Copeland by-election, will be standing in Copeland again. Phill Roberts will be the parliamentary candidate in Workington.

Rebecca Hanson is well-known for her campaigning work to save services at West Cumbria Hospital. She has an impressive professional and political track record both in West Cumbria and at national level. She became the County Councillor for Cockermouth North in last Thursday’s election after achieving a 34% swing to the Liberal Democrats.

Phill Roberts was Chair of Cumbria Liberal Democrats and is a prominent local campaigner on many issues. He achieved a 33% swing to the Liberal Democrats in the Aspatria County Council division last Thursday.

West Cumbria Liberal Democrats Chair Elizabeth Barraclough said:
“I’m delighted to have such excellent candidates in place for the general election on June 8th.

“Liberal Democrats will be campaigning hard on our key policy issues which include an extra £6bn per year ring-fenced for the NHS, improving provision for care and for public health, and challenging the damaging aspects of Brexit.

“We’ve had a huge surge in Liberal Democrat membership here in West Cumbria and many of our new members can’t wait to start campaigning in this election.”


Contact for Workington:
Elizabeth Barraclough. 017687 72771. Mobile 07786 347 002
[email protected]
Contact for Copeland:
Roger Putnam. 01946 723 361 Mobile 07896 957 557. [email protected]