Health Scrutiny Committee, 12 Jan 2021 – We are not just the COVID committee… although it sometimes feels like it.

Hannah Jewell tuned into January’s bumper 2hr36m Health Scrutiny Committee meeting in the hopes that climate emergency might make it onto the agenda.

What is the Health Scruinty Committee?

According to the MCC website:

“The Health Scrutiny Committee looks at how the Council and its partners in the NHS deliver health and social care services to improve the health and wellbeing of Manchester residents. The Committee takes a broad views of the health and social care services that are commissioned and provided by both the NHS and the Council so that it can make recommendations about how they can improve these services.

Areas of interest include social care for adults, health inequalities, health services, the protection and safeguarding of adults in receipt of health and social care services, mental health and wellbeing, experiences and outcomes for patients, public health and healthy living.”

Obviously, with a global pandemic raging and our healthcare system in crisis, it is entirely understandable that the Health Scrutiny Committee has a whole lot on their plate. Climate change is a current and future health crisis but the Health Scrutiny Committee has a huge remit and tight budget to contend with. In order to lighten the load, perhaps they could think about establishing a 7th scrutiny committee on climate and the environment?

 What was discussed

Chair councillor John Farrell opened the meeting with a hopeful quip that 2021 would be better than last year, before leading into urgent business – a presentation by Irish Community Care about their current work. This non-urgent information piece took up the first half an hour of the meeting – I have no idea if that’s standard but it definitely felt like there must be another time or place to hear this report.

This was followed by appeals, interests and minutes – none, none and approved. It’s odd watching recorded committee meetings as approval is given by people off-stream waving to Councillor Farrell. This was one of several inconveniences that made me feel out of the action – another is with the attendance not read out, gallery view never enabled and the attendance list not yet updated online, I still have no idea who attended this meeting.

The committee then heard an update on COVID-19 statistics and vaccination plans from the Director of Public Health, David Regan, and the Medical Director, Dr Manisha Kumar, followed by questions on the strategy of contacting people for vaccine rollout. We got our first of several references to the pre-meeting at 1hr33m.

The next agenda item was budget options for 2021/22, where the Executive Director of Adult Social Services, Bernadette Enright, presented cost cutting opportunities in adult social care to deal with the government’s budgetary crisis. This report will be passed up to the Executive. Across the committee’s council members there was consensus that they were unhappy to even have to discuss such issues or find money for adult social care from council tax as a result of years of Westminster cuts.

At the 2hr18m mark, Councillor Nigel Murphy gave an introduction on the Our Manchester strategy and its consultation process. All questions about this report focussed on whether the consultation had a representative sample of the population, particularly with Councillor Basil Curley feeling that people from the North and East of Manchester (including his ward, Charlestown) were under-represented. The content was not discussed. Around this point, several councillors made reference to conversations in the chat box which again, as the public, I was not privy to.

The Scrutiny Meeting was drawn to a close by a note of appreciation for health workers by Councillor Hitchens and a wry comment by the Chair and Councillor Ben Clay that the meeting lasted even longer than the Resource and Governance Scrutiny meeting.

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