‘SECRET NHS CUTS WILL CAUSE UPROAR’ – says the BMA doctors union

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DOCTORS have warned that new plans for savage NHS cuts are ‘shrouded in secrecy’ and will ‘cause uproar’, the BMA says in a statement released this morning.

The BMA sent Freedom of Information requests to NHS Improvement requesting the proposal documents. NHS Improvement said the documents belong to local health authorities and suggested requests were forwarded to those organisations.

The BMA then wrote to organisations in each of the areas requesting the final return – or the details within if not the whole documents. Representatives from just eight of the thirteen areas responded and none provided the full document or any significant details of their plan.

The BMA said that the plans will extend waiting times, reduce access to services, cut down on prescriptions and treatments, and merge or close hospitals and facilities. The plans called the Capped Expenditure Process (CEP) were introduced in April 2017.

They instruct NHS commissioners and providers in 13 areas across England with the largest budget deficits to make ‘considerable cuts’ in order to ‘achieve financial balance’ by next April 1st.

The areas affected by the CEP are under intense pressure to make cuts of as much as £500m. They have been told to ‘think the unthinkable’ suggesting mergers, closures of A&Es, maternity services, children’s wards and in some cases entire hospitals.

The 13 areas involved have submitted plans and NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, has now told commissioners and managers to get on with delivering the proposals – warning that more ‘difficult choices’ are on the way.

Dr David Wrigley, said: ‘These plans could have serious consequences for doctors working on the frontline and for the care and treatment patients receive and can expect in hospitals and GP surgeries in these areas.

‘It is bad enough that brutal cuts could threaten the services but it is totally unacceptable that proposals of this scale, which would affect large numbers of patients, are shrouded in such secrecy. Patients, the public and frontline staff – who have worked so hard to keep the health service afloat through years of underfunding in the face of rising demand – must be at the heart of any plans for the future of the health service but we are all frozen out of discussions, and local health managers are being asked to push forward despite being unwilling to share their decisions openly.

‘This government must stop and think before pressing ahead, as cuts on this scale in this timeframe would have a devastating impact on patients and staff. Our NHS is one of the very best healthcare services in the world, with hugely talented staff, but it relies too much on the goodwill of the staff who dedicate their lives to helping patients. This simply cannot go on. The government must provide adequate funding for the health service before it is too late.’

Speaking anonymously to the BMA, one trust chair with oversight of the process of drawing up the plans in his area, said: ‘We were descended on and asked to think the unthinkable in no time at all.

‘The NHS seems to go into a zone of secrecy as an automatic reaction. That’s the thing that really upsets me – the secrecy of it all and the ridiculous pace in which solutions are to be crafted and agreed. It’s the management culture too – it’s all hierarchical power and bullying. Even the most modest proposals would cause uproar.’