I write on behalf of Keep Our NHS Public North East, which is a group of North East health clinicians and, mostly, members of the public who care for the future of the NHS
We are, of course, very aware that the development of high quality health and social services is a challenging process when faced with continued under-funding from central government.
A clear understanding of proposals, transparency and the full involvement of a local population are fundamental ways forward in this very challenging decision-making process.
We believe that the latest draft from local NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) is deeply flawed, and is driven by an unrealistic timetable and massively reduced funding from central government.
The so-called Sustainability and Transformation Plan presented to the people of the North East in November 2016 purportedly outlines a vision for the future, but furnishes us with a blur of mixed messages and uncertainty.
There is much NHS England rhetoric about the draft Sustainability and Transformation Plan being jointly developed between CCGs and local authorities, but it seems that local politicians have not been involved in developing the plan and, even now, are minimally involved. This stance is supported by comments from a number of councillors.
Our group’s recent contact with MPs shows that they are similarly in the dark about this plan.
We believe the draft STP plan is lacking in specific and clear detail as to how it could work in practice.
Much of the local STP is written in vague and inaccessible language, with reference to past or current NHS projects which means very little to a person outside NHS management.
To assist our engagement and understanding, our campaign team has specifically requested CCGs to provide more information about what we feel are key operational issues.
Unfortunately, the responses from all North East CCGs are far from satisfactory to us.
They have not provided sufficient additional information about finances and how they will balance the books, and we are informed that details around staffing, safety and risk management will be considered at some later stage. It appears that transparency is lacking.
The general public and local councillors are being asked for an opinion, but without the full critical information.
Finally, and importantly, the draft plan appears to be a vehicle for delivering massive and unprecedented cuts to the NHS, imposed by the Government and driven by NHS England.
The draft plan identifies the requirement to save £641million in the North East over the next five years, with these savings being carried out whilst apparently introducing new and improved models of care.
We take exception to a plan in which a slashed NHS is hidden behind a notion of improved services.
A massively reduced budget and sustained under-funding inevitably leads to an overall reduction in the quality and/or accessibility of health services.
We take great exception to this aspect of the plan being minimised.
Sadly, the situation we find ourselves in in the North East is common across England and has led a number of local authorities to reject their own draft local STP.
Keep Our NHS Public North East requests our local councillors to respond in a similar way.
We will continue a campaign in which an adequately funded, accountable and transparent NHS are seen as fundamental values.
Co-ordinator Keep Our NHS Public North East