Our hospitals are the next in line for severe cuts in funding from this Tory government hell-bent on destroying our healthcare service. Sustainability and transformation plans (STP) for primary care have already been incorporated into the operating plans of our CCGs. But we are now waiting for the publication of plans for our hospitals. These plans are being drawn up in secret with no public engagement. There seems to be a media blackout being applied so most people are left unaware of just how far the intention to finally put the nail in the coffin of our NHS goes. Here is an update of what we know is going on in this footprint (region).
George Orwell’s novel 1984 has added quite a few words and phrases to the English language, thought crime, thought police, room 101, and big brother are all well known. Another word from 1984 is newspeak. It is the official language of Oceania, designed specifically to stifle opposition to the ruling party.
Although 1984 was written as a warning, as far as the NHS goes our government seems to have used it as an instruction manual. Changes to our NHS since the Health and Social Care Act (HSCA) of 2012 have been concealed from the public eye by the use of non-sensical language that would leave most of us utterly baffled as to what they are really saying.
The HSCA 2012 was far longer than the original Act that created the NHS. The campaign group 38 degrees had to employ lawyers to interpret it in order to help activists know what they were up against. Our media failed completely to report how our NHS was set to change before any changes happened. Public opposition and opposition from the Royal Colleges was limited.
But now we face changes due to STP. Attempting to fathom out what we are up against is even harder than it was when we did the same for the HSCA. The use of newspeak is quelling opposition.
So what do we know? The STP process is designed to cut £30bn from Health and Social Care in England. STP boards have no legal status yet they have been granted powers to over-ride decisions made by democratically elected councillors and existing NHS bodies. They meet in secret and their plans will not be subject to any public engagement.
There are 44 STP boards each covering a different region, or as they would say in newspeak footprint. East Sussex is in footprint 33, along with West Sussex, Brighton and Hove and East Surrey. We have already seen the plans for primary care incorporated into the operating plans of our CCGs. We await the publication of plans for our hospitals.
The Chair of our STP board, Michael Wilson, has been replaced by the Deputy CEO of the organisation responsible for cuts to our NHS, in newspeak they are called NHS Improvement. Hatchet man, Bob Alexander, has been appointed as the Executive Chair of our STP board, while still continuing his role within NHS Improvement.
We could safely say our STP board has been taken into administration in order to ram through recommendations from NHS Improvement. If that is not frightening enough we have also been included in a group of 14 footprints which will trial a Capped Expenditure Process, newspeak for even more cuts.
Clear evidence of the government plans to create a US style system of healthcare in the UK is the import of Accountable Care Systems and Organisations. Accountable Care models set up a single body with overall control of health and social care in a region. Fears are these would eventually be privately owned bodies as in America in the greatest step towards complete privatisation of our NHS we could ever hope to take.
So do we fall into despair and resign ourselves to waving goodbye to the NHS? As all these changes are being directed by NHS England they are able to avoid parliamentary debate and votes. There has also been a recent consultation on changes to regulations required to facilitate the operation of Accountable Care Systems. Once again this sounds like a government strategy to hack away at the NHS constitution and the regulations which support it by the back door, without any parliamentary scrutiny.
It would be easy to fall into despair but there is also a lot to suggest that getting angry would be more constructive.
In this footprint we are one of the last to hear about planned closures of hospitals or parts of hospitals. In other areas when plans have revealed proposals for hospital closures or downgrades large scale public opposition has emerged and by making their voices heard have successfully managed to reverse decisions made by STP boards.
There are also now four judicial reviews ongoing that challenge the legality of STP. Local legal challenges could set a precedent for other localities and there is also one national review that challenges the quasi-leglity of the Accountable Care System.
Just as many of us may have made sure we have anti-freeze in our cars before this cold weather with our hospitals it is also true that preventing damage is so much easier if we act before it starts to happen. The Regional Oppose the STP campaign group is suffering from a distinct lack of enthusiasm at present. This is both worrying and astonishing in equal measures considering the potential cuts that may soon be presented for our local hospitals.
We really need large scale public opposition right across the region to start happening as soon as possible.
Many members of the public feel strongly about protecting their hospitals. Most MPs would also have their minds focussed on the job if they knew votes could be lost unless they fight for hospital services. Many of our Tory MPs also have a very small majority and may now be desperate to keep constituents happy. All our local councillors have a duty to oversee and scrutinise the work of Health Trusts and CCGs. Some have representatives who sit on health boards but ALL local authorities have a powerful and statutory role in overseeing any reconfiguration proposals through their Joint Scrutiny roles.
It really is time to act fast before it is too late. Our health is fundamental to our success in everything else. We cannot hope to be happy or be successful in work if we are unhealthy. How can our country hope to become prosperous again if the population is unhealthy? We have a right to be angry and to have our voices heard as well as a responsibility to future generations, our friends and family to take this battle on.