STPs are to dictate budget & service cuts – says BMA

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Demonstrators in London last month fighting against the closure of the maternity department at Horton Hospital in Oxfordshire
Demonstrators in London last month fighting against the closure of the maternity department at Horton Hospital in Oxfordshire

THE government must not use ‘transformation’ plans as a cover for further cuts to the NHS, says the British Medical Association.

Responding to a King’s Fund report on Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair said: ‘Any plans about the future of the NHS must be drawn up in an open and transparent way, and have the support and involvement of clinicians, patients and the public from the outset. At this stage nobody can be confident that this has happened.

‘Any proposed changes can only deliver real improvement when given adequate investment. As we have seen in the debate over NHS funding in recent weeks, many existing services are already at risk of financial collapse.

‘Doctors are becoming increasingly concerned that the primary focus of NHS transformation is not on delivering the best possible patient care, but in cutting back budgets and, therefore, services. Above all, the government must not use these transformation plans as a cover for further starving services of resources and patients of care.’

Porter has written to MPs asking whether they are aware of the impact of these proposed changes on services in their local area. It says: ‘NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) – the five year plans that 44 “footprint areas” across England have been tasked with forming to transform services and deal with NHS deficits – have recently come in to the media spotlight, and for good reason, their impact on local NHS and care services could be huge.

‘The BMA has been tracking their progress and development since their announcement. They have now submitted the detail of their plans to NHS England. The impact of these plans will be significant; positive, or negative. Unfortunately, and we believe, detrimentally, these plans have not been made public and have throughout their formation had scant levels of public or professional consultation. . .

‘I am writing to ask you, as a constituency MP, whether you are aware of the impact of these proposed changes on services in your local area. As STPs are not a statutory process, there is currently no duty placed upon them to consult with stakeholders. A consequence of this is that there has been little to no engagement with clinical staff locally.

‘A change on this scale needs to have proper clinical and legal accountability. From what information is available, we know that some plans cut hospital beds, close A&E departments, and restructure maternity services. As we have seen in the debate over NHS funding in recent weeks, many existing services are already at risk of financial collapse and we are becoming increasingly concerned that the primary focus of STPs is not on delivering the best possible patient care, but in cutting back budgets and, therefore, services.

‘These plans commit local areas to make further savings based on a worrying lack of evidence. . . The BMA believes that meaningful input from clinicians, patients and the public, is essential. We are therefore calling for all plans to be made public as soon as possible.’