I appreciate that all the changes being made to the structure of our NHS have been coming at us in quick succession. They have also been obfuscated by the most inappropriate language which often gives labels for new systems that mean exactly the opposite of what they represent. You may feel like giving up on trying to understand it all and trying to keep track of what is happenning, I know I do at times. But we all need to recognise that already lives are being lost despite the brilliant efforts of our amazing NHS workforce. Despite all the troubles that beset our NHS it is still doing a remarkable job. It is however just one step away from being lost, a scenario that could only result in far more lives being lost and harmed. We owe it to ourselves to keep up the fight.
So why am I feeling so panic struck and convinced our NHS is so near to being lost? I have already talked about Sustainability and Transformation Plans. In our region of footprint 33 covering East Surrey and Sussex the plans have been broken down into three smaller area plans or place-based plans. In East Sussex the plans have been called the East Sussex Better Together plan.
These STP proposals initially talked about producing Accountable Care Organisations (ACO). An ACO would be one organisation which would be responsible for all health and social care provision in the area. They would be given a set sum of money with which to provide care each year regardless of what the demand was. The amount of money each ACO receieved would be set so as to absorb all the current deficits that exist on our NHS trusts and CCGs.
There has been a few legal challenges to the ACO model most notably the one that the late Stephen Hawcking backed. Although this judicial review failed to rule against the ACO model it did win a concession that the Government had to consult on the idea first. Due to a large amout of publicity which was focussed on the fact there would be nothing accountable about ACOs the Government dresses the idea up as Integrated Care Providers (ICP) now. An ICP is nothing other than an ACO with sheep’s clothing on so the requirement for a consultation still exists.
A consutation document was quietly lodged on the NHS England (NHSE) website with no copies distributed and no media campaign to make the public aware of its existence. NHSE also planned four consultation events, all in mid-September in London, Leeds, Exeter and Birmingham. The document is a densely-worded and misleading 40 page consultation with 12 oddly-framed questions which few members of the pubic and a minority of campaigners could confidently handle answering.
But in East Sussex the East Sussex Better Together website is clearly stating that they intend to create an Integrated Care Provider for the region. ICPs are no more Integrated than ACOs were accountable. Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford CCG have formed an alliance with Hastings and Bexhill CCG, East Sussex County Council and East Sussex Healthcare Trust with Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust affiliated. How can an alliance be formed between bodies which all have too little money to do their work effectively?
But most worrying of all is that if we end up with an ICP in this area that body will have to be put out to tender with the private sector entitled to bid. If we lost our hospital trusts, our CCGs and the aspect off County Council, that allocates money for care, to the private sector we would no longer have any remnant of an NHS left. We cannot let that happen. Privatisation is a disaster for our healtthcare service, aside from the morally repugnant idea of somebody getting rich from the illness and suffering of others this cannot work.
The private sector’s primary aim is creating profit. Healthcare decisions should not be focussing on how best to maximise profit but on how best we can all be cared for.
But all is not lost yet! Here is how you can fight back:-
- Have a go at completing the consultation document on the NHS England website
- If like me, you can’t make sense of their slippery language in the consultation document you can sign this petition that Health Campaigns Together have launched on Change.org
- Write to your MP about your concerns
- Join others from this campaign on the 13th October for the march and rally organised by Sussex Defend the NHS in Brighton
- Talk to your friends and family, share this post on social networks and try to get past the government attempts to confuse us all into submission
- I will be over the coming days making contact with the groups who have affiliated to this campaign about getting campaigns happening acrss East Sussex. If you have ideas please contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you belong to a group in East Sussex who has not yet affiliated to this campaign then please think about doing so
- Keep your spirits up, this is a hugely important fight but not one any of us needs to feel alone with