At the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) board meeting on Tuesday the presence of the new NHS Improvement (NHSi) body was felt.
NHSi is an unelected quango created under Conservative Health Minister Jeremy Hunt’s Health and Social Care Act 2012. NHSi aims to ‘help’ hospital trusts implement the Government’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). These plans have led to the hugely controversial reduction and centralisation of health services across the country.
They also open up our public health service to private companies. We have yet to be consulted on Lincolnshire’s STP but controversial strategic changes are being discussed and likely to be announced in spring 2018 earliest.
NHSi has taken an early opportunity to intervene in how our local hospital services are run, in advance of the publication of the STP. They have delayed UHLT’s plan to temporarily reopen Grantham A&E at night. Local people will be forced to continue travelling through poor weather conditions in the dark for A&E treatment. NHSi will first complete a staffing assessment of all three A&Es within ULHT.
ULHT are inspecial measures and well behind their plan to cut their debt. They anticipated a debt of £47m at the end of the financial year but already owe £43m. ULHT must also find approximately £400,000 for punitive Government interest rates.
NHSi have also challenged ULHT for running hospitals at Grantham, Lincoln and Boston. It costs ULHT £30m more a year to maintain the three hospital sites rather than offer centralised hospital services. Campaigners argue that our expanding county needs three hospitals and three A&Es.
Other struggling trusts have been replaced by private businesses. According to a report in 2015 more than 34,000 people had avoidable deaths as a result of Government NHS changes. This is appalling. Those supporting the Health and Social Care Act, such as Nick Boles MP, who voted for it, must call on the Government to re-think before more die.
Meanwhile, many local residents also face cuts in their household budgets as Universal Credit is rolled-out in Grantham and Stamford through JobCentre Plus – just as winter approaches. The SKDC Labour Group on South Kesteven have lobbied the council to monitor the situation and provide help for those affected. Computers are available in the council’s customer service area for those needing online access. Residents facing payment delays and unable to pay rent may request an advanced payment from Jobcentre Plus. Citizens Advice offers help too. It recommends claimants request advanced payments as soon as possible. Financial help may also be available through SKDC’s discretionary housing payment (DHP) scheme (Tel: 406080). Foodbank vouchers are also available.