Despite this meeting being held on a Sunday of bank holiday weekend, and at a time when many people would be involved in canvassing for forthcoming elections we had a surprisingly good turnout. Representatives from groups in Brighton, Eastbourne, Hastings, Lewes, Lancing and Chichester met to try and make sense of what we are up against in the fight to preserve healthcare across the Footprint 33 region (East Surrey and Sussex).
The first half of the meeting was focussed on sharing information about what we know so far. One major problem seems to be the language used in these plans. As we start off with the region being named a Footprint instead of simply a region it is not hard to see that the whole plan is full of language that would make little sense to most people.
We discussed this impenetrable jargon and tried to make sense of some of the terms used. Should we ask for a complete translation or perhaps a glossary of terms? Surely any public body has a duty to make documents such as this understandable for the public?
Place-based plans are the part of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan relating to primary and social care. Despite assurances that there will be public consultation on these plans we know that place-based plans are already incorporated into CCG operating plans for the whole of East Sussex and East Surrey. Yet, there is still no sign of any public engagement happening.
Accountable Care Organisations (ACO) are the bodies that would be responsible for implementing STP. This is an idea copied over from America, giving an indication that the intention is to move Britain towards an American style insurance based system of healthcare.
There is already a draft ACO in West Sussex but it has no local support.
There is much talk in place-based plans of ‘hubs’ in relation to primary and social care and we really need to start understanding what this will mean in our localities. The place-based plans tend to be easier to read than the parts of STP relating to hospitals. We can start to get an idea of what these plans may mean by looking at the plan for Central Sussex and East Surrey. It is really important for everyone to find out what the operating plan for their CCG is.
Social Care is already in crisis through lack of funding and highlights the tragic farce of STP. Regional STP proposes a cut of £112m and there are many proposals to prevent over-75s from going into hospital. These cuts hinge on the idea of community care and social care preventing people needing hospital.
The main regional STP is supposedly a ‘work in progress’ with an abundance of meaningless headings such as Provider Productivity which we are sure relates to staffing cuts of £270m. There is still an estimated £200m of cuts to be made to balance the STP budget for 2020-21. Unsurprisingly hospital-related changes are yet to be announced. There is nothing like closures of hospital services to trigger public outcry. The fear is that cuts, closures and redundancies will happen slowly using a drip-drip approach in an attempt to avoid mass public protest.
NHS improvement officers are involved in three NHS trusts in the region (BSUHT, East Sussex Healthcare trust and Secamb). A report on BSUHT (in special measures for Quality and Finance) has supposedly been completed but nothing has been released. There are key questions to be asked around A&E and Maternity Services.
Coastal West Sussex have taken over the Board of Brighton and Sussex University Hospital Trust. this is supposedly a temporary buddying arrangement but is obviously a prelude to other major decisions. The position relative to Eastbourne DGH and Conquest Hospitals needs to be checked out.
Propco, a NHS England quango, is in charge of all NHS buildings. Potentially they could be making £billions through the sale of NHS buildings and land. In our region our STP board may well hope to clear much of the £864m ‘do nothing’ deficit through the sale of buildings and land or by putting up rents on properties such as GP surgeries. It was decided that further research into this must be done as a matter of urgency.
By looking at other regions around the country where STPs have been published we have seen hospital and service closures and mergers with increased catchment areas for many hospitals. In areas where they know what is happening there have been big public demonstrations, particularly in Devon and Cornwall. The Keogh report of 2013 recommended cutting back to just one A&E service per footprint.
We all need to keep a very close eye on our hospitals. The danger of news about hospital and service changes being drip-fed under the radar to avoid a massive public reaction is one we must be on guard for.
Thankfully there was then some Good News! – There are two judicial reviews which are both quite far advanced which may generate hope for some. Here is a link to a Crowd Justice campaign which is aiming to raise funds for one of those judicial reviews. This is an excellent opportunity to get a legal ruling that would prevent our NHS being destroyed so please donate whatever you can afford. The Socialist Health Association which has the ear of the Labour Party is now under excellent leadership and everyone is encouraged to join.
The next half of the meeting focused on actions that the group could take.
- There is a Wiggio group, which is an online platform where information can be shared. It was decided that this would be trialed for three months and then re-evaluated. Membership of the Wiggio group is through invitation only but do get in touch if you would be interested.
- There was a discussion about the setting up of a Facebook page with the feeling that this may offer instant possibilities for organising. However some people are not keen on Facebook.
- It was agreed that co-ordinating press releases on hospital bed review figures across the region may help to get a message out to the public. A press release to local papers needs to be adapted according to area but a draft press release will be shared on Wiggio for anyone to use. If you do send a press release to your local paper try and include a high-resolution image, preferably with somebody’s face on it, with the text.
- There is a possibility of trying to get a region-wide pledge to oppose STP. Health Campaigns Together are doing a national oppose STP petition which will go on Wiggio shortly.
- July 1st-5th – Health Campaigns Together have suggested these dates for nationally coordinated actions around the birthday of the NHS on the 5th. It would be good to coordinate something regionally on these dates. One idea was to collect signatures on a birthday card for the NHS in town centres that could then be delivered to the local hospital. Another idea was to target action around Virgin Healthcare with coordinated placards and publicity.
- The idea of a regional march was also discussed, with coordinated marches organised in different town converging on Redhill, the base of Michael Wilson, Chair of our STP Board.