Previously I have said that the Sustainability and Transformation Plans which NHS England state are supposed to be about how local healthcare systems can ‘evolve’ and ‘become sustainable over the next five years’ are simply government mandated cuts. Cuts that threaten to downgrade our hospital here in South Tyneside and hospitals right across the country paving the way for privatisation of our health service.
Just recently we saw Virgin Care being handed a £700 million pound contract, to run over 200 types of services in the south of the country.
Some plans have been recently published, in some areas brave local authorities have leaked them on the basis that the public have a right to know because the reality is these plans could end in the closure of accident and emergency units, critical care units, maternity units, the list goes on. The plan for South Tyneside Hospital was published last week, readers will have already seen comments from myself about how disappointed I am at the alarming lack of clarity or detail in it.
I have been critical from day one about the lack of transparency, engagement and overall secret way the plans for our area have been developed. The NHS’s own guidance even states that involving people, communities and other stakeholders in a meaningful way is essential to effective service improvement or any transformation of our health service so it is astonishing that when it comes to Sustainability and Transformation plans, one of the biggest and most worrying shake ups to hit our NHS in my lifetime that they have thrown their own guidance to one side.
Just this week news from the Kings Fund found that these criticisms are applicable across the board as nationally NHS England have been telling local health leaders not to reveal plans to the public until they have been finalised and approved by their own officials first and in some cases even reject freedom of information requests.
Because of this approach, the public and frontline staff have been, in the main, absent from the whole process, a process which may see not only consultation next year but actual changes implemented next year also.
Jeremy Hunt’s mismanagement of our NHS has reached a new low, communities up and down our country are seriously worried about the future of their local hospitals.
I remain not only worried for our hospital but for the future of the NHS overall. In many areas these plans will be the beginning of the end of the National Health Service, a health service that I have grown up with, a health service that has looked after and cared for me, my family and millions of others throughout their lives. Please be assured that I will continue to work closely with campaigners, local stakeholders and my colleagues in Parliament to save our hospital and our NHS.