56th Annual General Meeting, Thursday 23 March 2023
When composing my report for the annual newsletter or for the AGM, I always find it
quite instructive to look back at the previous reports, particularly the ones from the
preceding year, and read what I was ranting about then. This time last year, at our
AGM on 31 March, I was commenting on the Russian invasion of Ukraine which
had just occurred as well as the lifting of all the Covid restrictions five weeks
previously. I also referred to the state of the NHS and more parochial matters like the
Lace Hill development and the future of the hospital.
So what has happened over the last 12 months? Covid seems to have slipped down the list of priorities although yesterday we had one of the former prime ministers – three in the past year with four chancellors – appearing before the House of Commons Privileges Committee and bullishly maintaining that he had not misled parliament about the lockdown parties. I make no further comment…
With regards to Covid, cases are still occurring and personally I had the infection
around the New Year. I was flattened for a couple of days although I suspect it could
have been much worse without the booster jab last October.
And moving on to my favourite topic, the NHS, I read that last year I reported to you
that I thought the NHS was in a worse state than the year before i.e. in 2021 – and that
certainly applies again this year. I vented my spleen in the recent annual newsletter
but I do note now with great concern that the number of patients on waiting lists is 7.2
million compared to 6.1 million last year and that there are 130,000 full time
equivalent vacancies in the NHS compared with 100,000 last March.
And once again last year, I reported that the British Social Attitudes survey had
recorded the lowest level of public satisfaction with the NHS for 25 years including,
to my dismay as a retired GP, the lowest rating for primary care, mainly because of
the difficulties accessing GPs through the pandemic.
These problems have continued, and I am aware of a great deal of stress and low
morale among GPs and primary healthcare staff: in fact, this was borne out by a report a couple of days ago from the Health Foundation who had surveyed 10,000 GPs in 10 high income countries including around 1,000 in the UK. The study found that of all
the nations, UK GPs had the highest levels of stress and burnout, and the lowest job
satisfaction, as well as having to work within 10 minute consultation times compared
with, for example, Sweden where GPs are able to spend 25 minutes with each patient.
As long ago as 2016, 6,000 more GPs were promised but that has not happened and
the Dept of Health and Social Care responding to the Health Foundation survey said
that it was aware of the pressures facing GPs and that over 25,000 additional members of staff have been recruited. Well, that’s alright then….
For 2022-23, I think the most significant indicator of recovery from the pandemic for
the League of Friends has been the ability to resume face-to-face meetings,
particularly this AGM which is the first one we have held in person since 2019. And the venue here in the University of Buckingham’s Masons’ Building has proved more
than suitable following the loss of the old Embleton Unit at the hospital as a location
for our meetings.
What has the League been up to in 2022-23? Two reclining chairs for the dayroom
were purchased and the provision of magazines and newspapers continued. We
bought Christmas presents for the patients and Christmas vouchers for the staff and
anomalies with payment for the maintenance of the hospital gardens were sorted out
resulting in savings for both the League and for Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust.
You will hear more about our finances shortly but just to say that while subscription
income declined, bequests and donations continued to be received indicating the high esteem with which the hospital continues to be held in Buckingham and the
surrounding area – and these donations included one from the Banbury and District
Vintage Ploughing Society and an anonymous, and vital, contribution for cakes for
the patients and visitors.
The annual Christmas carol concert resumed, and although I was personally unable to be present, it was gratifying that the Lenborough Singers could perform once again
although I understand the post-concert sharing of drinks and nibbles that usually
heralds the festive season had to be curtailed because of cases of Covid in the
Last year I spoke about the project to establish an “Orchard of Appreciation” in the
hospital grounds to acknowledge the contribution that numerous doctors, nurses and
ancillary staff had made to the hospital since 1887 and I expressed the hope that it
might be finished by the end of 2022. Unfortunately, little progress has been made
and we are still waiting for the Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust to give permission to
establish access to the site at the rear of the car park – although as I said in the
newsletter, perhaps they have other priorities at present!
So, to conclude with my usual thanks to everyone who has worked hard for the
League and for the staff and patients this past year. The officers – Julian Lovelock,
chairman, Frank Donlon, vice-chairman, Mrs Sheila Dawe secretary and Mrs Jacqui
North, treasurer – Jacqui aided but perhaps not abetted, by Frank. Mrs Margaret
Clarke membership secretary and not to forget Mr. Brian Clarke who with Margaret
keeps an eye on our website and who is instrumental in deleting the spam and passing on messages of relevance.
We are grateful to Dr George Gavriel of the Swan Practice who provides the GP
liaison between the Practice and the League and who while not being able to be
present this evening has attended committee meetings whenever possible to give
updates about the progress, or lack of it, with the Lace Hill development, as well as
the world of primary care. I think rather like our Orchard of Appreciation, “slow” or
“stationary” would explain where we are with Lace Hill.
Thanks to Sister Amy Wright and her team at the hospital, including Kate Fox the
ward administrator, for their support of the League through the year, and for the care
they provide for the patients. Amy always tries to be present at our committee
meetings if work and home life allow.
Thanks, too, to Jenny Ricketts, Director of Community Transformation at the Trust,
who, although unable to be here as well this evening, travelled a considerable distance from South Bucks to attend some of our committee meetings.
At our meeting last October, Diana Bunce, Community Team Lead and Claire Jones,
both from the Aylesbury and Buckingham Adult and Community Healthcare Team –
ACHT – and Gemma from the Rapid Response and Intermediate Care Team, RRIC,
who are all based at the hospital, gave a very useful and interesting presentation about their work and they too are thanked for giving up their valuable time.
In January we were very pleased to hear a report on the musculo-skeletal services
from Michelle Saunders, service manager from Practice Plus Group MSK and her
colleague, Liz Watsham, deputy service manager, who kindly gave up an evening to
come and talk to us.
A big thank you to all the members of the League’s committee for their work during
the past year and finally, particular thanks again to Frank Donlon who kindly invited
me to a meeting of Winslow Rotary last October to give a talk, that I have done many
times before, about the history of the hospital. I was warmly welcomed, and wined
and dined, and it was a splendid evening.
I am speaking to the U3A in Maids Moreton in June on the same topic and if anyone
else is interested in the hospital’s history – in fact, the building was opened 136 years
ago this coming Saturday, 25 March – please contact my agent!
Dr Roger Harrington
23 March 2023