Cornishman Article September 2016
Our September column focuses on NHS England’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan and its implementation through 44 ‘Footprints’ or Local STPs, Cornwall being designated as number 38.
These are being developed in order to deliver the government’s Five Year Forward Plan. The underlying premise is that for our health services to be sustainable we have to make changes to the way we live, access and deliver care. To make these changes things will have to be done more efficiently (government speak for savings), which at a local level, we believe, means cuts and closures.
The critical point is that each local plan MUST include proposals to bring it into financial balance within 2016-17. This absolute priority, comes at a time when the majority of Trusts and many CCG’s are in deficit, in other words, they cannot balance the books. At the same time the government is imposing £22 billion worth of savings on the NHS English regions which have to be realised by 2020.
Our own GP Clinical Commissioning Group, (NHS Kernow) continues to carry a potential debt of £62.5 million.
Together with its Cornwall Council partners, GP Commissioners have been tasked with producing a footprint plan, which should in theory have submitted to NHS England by the end of June. We say in theory because the plans appear shrouded in secrecy. Indeed, suspicion is building that the STP process is subject to a confidentiality clause by NHS England at the behest of Jeremy Hunt.
Interestingly, at NHS Kernow’s August Board meeting, an update of Cornwall’s STP plan was tabled for the afternoon session, when public and press were excluded.
We are concerned that Cornwall’s ‘STP blueprint’ is being drawn up behind closed doors, without public knowledge, with no public engagement or consultation and with priorities subject to approval by NHS England.
Only then will we learn whether the findings from the public meetings and survey about shaping the future of Health and Social Care in Cornwall that many of us participated in earlier this year, have been included in the plan. Headline priorities from the survey include timely access to services close to where people live and work, more services based in local facilities, and an expansion in the role of community hospitals. Travel was seen as a barrier as was lack of access to Mental Health support.
We believe there is a very real danger that by the time any public consultation takes place the only discussion will be about which of our services will be cut.
Sadly it is our GP commissioners and councillors, rather than the government who will take the flak for axing precious services to fit the government’s chronic underfunding of our NHS.
Jane Varker and Jan Williams 24/08/2016.
Copyright West Cornwall HealthWatch