District Councillor Charmaine Morgan, Chair SOS Grantham Hospital, is urging people not to support Government Plans to restructure the NHS currently under Public Consultation. The deadline for the response is 8th January, and the link to the consultation is
Whilst the integration of Health and Social Care is a laudible aim this policy is being used by the Government to restructure decision making within our NHS, further reducing public accountability and further enabling opportunities for the private sector.
The new proposal will see the removal of Clinical Commissioning Groups and replacement with 42 new less accountable, tightly funded regulatory Integrated Care Systems. Within the structure the Health Systems Support Framework (HSSFs) , private companies are being promoted as ‘vendors’ by the Government who are specifically instructing NHS decision makers to use them for analytical data. Furthermore the ‘vendors’ will have positions on the new ICS boards. Previously Public Health were able to provide this information and worked with local authorities.
The overall objective is to robustly cut our A&E infrastructure and hospital bed time using proactive medical intervention. On the face of it improving public health to reduce the need for medical intervention is a good thing.
However, how this is done is extremely important to reduce inequality around access to care, and to ensure there are no gaps in healthcare provision. This strategic approach depends on there being an increasingly healthy population. The use of private firms is wholly unnecessary to achieve this aim. In the UK this policy has led to a loss of NHS beds and cuts to NHS A&E services nationally.
This is before other proactive medical interventions have been put in place, and, before there have been signs of improvement in public health. On the contrary the indications are that austerity has led to a reduction in life span for those on low income.
Low income men living 7 years less than wealthier contemporaries. Covid 19 is leaving many with long term medical complications too. Locally NHS Improvement instructed ULHT to review the number of A&Es in Lincolnshire.
According to them we have too many. That’s why we did not see Grantham A&E reopen 24hrs and why ULHT are pushing for an Urgent Treatment Centre at our local hospital.
Long waiting times tell us this is not the time to tighten the squeeze on our A&E or medical treatment network. Covid 19 has highlighted the pressure our NHS hospital staff and beds were already under and worsened the situation.
To fully appreciate what less public accountability means in the NHS we need only look at the decisions ULHT have made affecting Grantham Hospital services over 5 years. Lincolnshire County Council Health Scrutiny members are only consulted after decisions are made. Only a protracted referral to Sec. of State for Health or legal action can subsequently block or overturn ULHT decisions.
The existing CCGs involvement is barely noticeable with the current chair allowing all healthcare providers to do their own thing. There is no elected public representation on the CCG or ULHT. There is a deficit in democracy within NHS decision making now.
Patients and local businesses, who after all pay for services through taxes, have little or no say on what services are provided. This issue will remain under the new plans but the voice of private health companies will be heard.
This means £ms more wasted on bureaucracy and profits that could be focused on frontline NHS, Public Health and Social Care services.
It is hugely cynical of the Government to be holding such an important consultation over Christmas, and, when eyes are turned towards the pandemic. Nor will most people appreciate its significance. The pandemic is revealing how fragile our NHS is. It needs bolstering not squeezing and help, not undermining, at this critical time.