Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 46 Number 22, October 1, 2016 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

The Battle for the Future Direction of the NHS

Massive Cuts to Acute Hospital Services Threatened by Sustainability & Transformation Plans

Jeremy Corbyn supporting the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign at the 80th Anniversary Celebrations of the Jarrow March. Speaking there he said that "health care is a right not a privilege".

Over recent weeks there has been a growing impact on health care services from the 44 Sustainability & Transformation Plans (STPs) that are being drawn up in secret at the behest of NHS England and the government. These plans, which are to be finalised in October, are designed to massively cut NHS services, downgrading hospital acute services and A&Es throughout England over a five-year period. They are being prepared by "footprints" of CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) that have no status in any Act of Parliament and are not elected bodies.

According to a statement of Health Campaigns Togetheri following their conference in Birmingham on September 17: "Drafts of all 44 plans were submitted in July: but as of now only six relatively complete drafts have been published - for North West London, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Dorset, the Black Country, Wider Devon and Shropshire." These plans all centre on achieving drastic "efficiency" savings, to stave off a deliberately contrived "gap" of £22-30 billion by 2020. The statement continues: "The North West London draft makes clear that most of the core savings are to come from closing hospitals, centralising services, squeezing more 'productivity' from already hard-pressed hospital staff, redundancies and dumping more unpaid tasks onto GPs and primary care services, as well as onto family carers."

The statement also points out: "The proposed new models of 'out of hospital care' will also open the door to selling off NHS estate to fund the NHS 'deficit', as well as further privatisation - contracting out for US-style 'accountable care partnerships' and for 'Multispecialty Community Providers'." The statement also goes on to note the current disastrous fragmentation, underfunding and widespread privatisation of social care, making a comprehensive integrated service impossible.

Two Examples

In the North West, the STP is behind a new attempt under the government's ironically named "Success Regime" to close consultant led maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital (WCH) in Whitehaven forcing women with birth complications to travel to the Cumberland Infirmary some 40 miles away. The midwives from west Cumbria published an open letterii in August warning, "We cannot believe that you would remove consultant cover from WCH. Surely the lives of pregnant ladies are worth much more than a cost cutting exercise? We are told that these cuts are for safety reasons. That we know is not true. We also know that: - Mothers will die - Babies will die - Babies will be brain damaged - Families will be traumatised" if consultant-led maternity care is removed from the West Cumberland Hospital.

In the North East, South Tyneside Hospital is being subject to the downgrading of all its acute services in a new "alliance" with City Hospitals Sunderland - a move that threatens the downgrading and loss of its stroke, maternity and other acute services and the downgrading of its A&E to a minor injuries "Urgent Care Centre" as a result of a secret STP that plans a cut of 15-20% of the budgets of both hospitals over five years. Already, the new Chief Executive of this alliance from Sunderland within ten days of coming into his post immediately said action has be taken "as quickly as possible" to move South Tyneside stroke services "temporarily" to Sunderland prior to any consultation. The chair of Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign, Roger Nettleship, pointed out: "We are getting no guarantees from either the hospital leaders, or the Clinical Commissioners that we will have consultant led stroke, maternity, or a fully operating A&E by the end of next year. We are calling on the people of South Tyneside to campaign against this whole direction to downgrade our hospital and we will be holding our first demonstration in South Shields next month on October 22 in South Shields to defend our hospital and our NHS."

There are campaigns uniting the people in many areas of of the country which are being organised regardless of political views of the people involved and keeping the initiative in the people's own hands to safeguard the future of their NHS and chart a new path against this continued direction of wrecking the NHS. Access to health care is a right of everyone in a modern society, and this right must be guaranteed for all. Resources must be ensured for the training of doctors and consultants required for all acute and community services. Locally accessible district hospitals with a wide range of properly funded acute and emergency services must be retained. Public right should prevail and the duty of government to provide a comprehensive health service across England to all communities must be restored.



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