Grantham Journal column: These health plans go against NHS principles
Lincolnshire Health and Care (LHAC) have finally launched the Lincolnshire STP.
This consortium of local health bodies has come together to deliver changes to our health services. LHAC state that people want more services to be delivered locally. LHAC want to provide better quality care and must deliver services within budget over the next five years. They state we asked for the better integration of health and social care services, and for better access to our GPs. Fortunately the STP is subject to public consultation.
With its multitude of supporting material there is plenty in the STP to plough through. 42,000 of us (and rising) have made it clear we do not support the downgrade of Grantham A&E. Yet the STP proposes the permanent downgrade of our A&E to an Urgent Care Centre. Perversely, whilst recognising we live in a rural area, the health bodies, instead of arguing the case for more resources, are implementing NHS Plans and use this as a justification to further reduce our acute hospital services in a bid to drive care into the community.This goes against NHS principles and will force those most in urgent need of care to travel further. It appears even major trauma patients will not be treated in our county at all if the STP is delivered.
A look at the NHS England STP material reveals the reasons for these changes. NHS England has told our hospital trusts they must ‘reduce demand’ on hospital services, be more open to new ways of ‘commissioning services’ and must work to budget. The budget for NHS England last year was £113bn according to the Kings Fund. It is to rise to £133bn by 2020 but as NHS costs rise in real terms we have 0.9% increase in funding year on year. This will not meet the rising demands of an increasingly elderly population (surely a good thing!) with more complex medical needs. Poor planning and failure to invest in training medical staff (including the GPs and nurses the STP needs) over the last decade has worsened the situation. To deliver this plan the Government put in place unelected and virtually unaccountable quangos. This is not how a Government intent on protecting our NHS principles, meeting the medical needs of all acts. It is right to refocus our efforts into preventative care but there will always be a need for good, quickly accessed emergency care. A Government focusing on preventative care would not withdraw key public health funds as ours has. In implementing the STP now NHS England will ‘put the cart before the horse’.
Locally elected representaives have a very different view. The virtually unprecedented cross party unanimous opposition to the closure of Grantham A&E at night clearly demonstrates this. At the LCC I trust we will again stand shoulder to shoulder, supported by our local MPs, against these plans. When the SOS Grantham Hospital petition goes to Downing Street in January, that will be our message to the Government, too.
The plans can be viewed online at http://lincolnshirehealthandcare.org/en/stp/. Please contact me for a copy of the SOSGranthamHospital analysis and response available from next Monday on 07398 156296 or view http://www.sosgranthamhospital.org.uk