PLANS to close A&Es, maternity services, children’s departments and entire hospitals up and down the country have begun to emerge as the Tory government’s secretive STP plans are leaking out.
The Kings Fund carried out an investigation to answer the question: Why is the government and NHS England keeping these STP plans so secret? The Kings Fund investigation has revealed that the answer is clear. It is because NHS England and the Tories fear a public uprising if the true nature of the sweeping cuts comes out.
The King’s Fund was told by senior leaders at NHS England that they wanted to ‘manage’ the narrative around the process, because of the ‘sensitive nature of some of the changes.’ The STPs stand for Sustainability and Transformation Plans.
By ‘Sustainability’ the Tories mean that any service deemed ‘un-sustainable’, i.e. unprofitable, will be axed and by ‘Transformation’ they mean privatisation. The Kings Fund said yesterday that NHS England has told local managers to keep the plans ‘out of the public domain’ and avoid requests for information.
Full details of 44 STP ‘reviews of services’ around the country, which involve closing A&Es or, in one case, an entire hospital are yet to emerge. However some of the plans have already been leaked.
What we know already is this: alarmingly, one out of five of the south London hospitals will be completely shut down. The hospitals threatened with complete closure are: St George’s in Tooting, Kingston, Croydon, Sutton’s St Helier or Epsom.
The North Tees proposal includes plans to ‘downgrade’ services at one of the three major hospitals in the area. This means that the A&E would become an ‘urgent care centre’ that cannot deal with emergencies. In Devon, health bosses are looking at whether to close A&Es, maternity and stroke services at hospitals across the county.
In Merseyside, there are plans to cut £1bn pounds from the health services there.
This would mean merging four hospitals – the Royal Liverpool, Broadgreen, Aintree and Liverpool Women’s so that they would ‘share’ services. In Birmingham and Solihull, maternity services are to be merged or shut.
The North Central London STP plan is considering axing Whittington Hospital’s A&E.
These are just the first of the 44 cuts and privatisation plans to emerge. During its research, the King’s Fund carried out interviews with staff involved in four of the 44 STPs. One local health leader interviewed by the King’s Fund said: ‘All the national guidance says don’t share it, don’t put in the public domain.’
The government wants to ‘manage the national political messages to make sure that things like hospital closures and things like that don’t get leaked,’ staff said. The local managers said they had been told to keep the process ‘private and confidential,’ which one described as ‘ludicrous,’ while another said the leadership had made the ‘wrong judgement call’ in its approach to managing the process.
Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said: ‘The spectre of further privatisation lurks in the background. This is a wake-up call for local councils, politicians and the public to make to their voice heard – I doubt whether one person in a thousand knows what a STP is.
‘What the NHS needs are not more secretive “reforms,” but a massive injection of “new” money when chancellor Philip Hammond “resets” the economy in his autumn statement on 23 November. We also need more openness about STPs as they appear, under the mantle of improved services, to mask a culture of cuts.’
Anna Athow. Deputy Chair London BMA, commented: ‘The government is throwing down the gauntlet. They are setting out to smash and destroy the NHS, the greatest gain the working class has ever made.
‘The TUC congress must be recalled at once and there has to be a general strike to bring down this Tory government and bring in a workers government that will properly finance, defend and develop the NHS to secure its future and the future of working people and their children.’