Dear councillors in England - the NHS needs you
The government wants local areas to deliver plans that will Slash, Trash and Privatise our NHS (and to deal with the crisis that follows). But if councils refuse to sign up to the plans, we have a chance of stopping them.
Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) sound nice. In reality, 'sustainability' is code for cuts and 'transformation' is code for privatisation. Indeed, the NHS England director of strategy Michael Macdonnell said STPs offered private sector an “enormous opportunity”.
There are 44 plans for 'footprint' areas across England. The plans - which are supposed to be signed off by Christmas - had been developed in secret until pressure from the public forced them into the open. As a result of this pressure, all 44 STPs have now been published, but many lack vital information to enable the public and councillors to see what is really going on. What we do know is that they deliver deep cuts to NHS services and plenty of encouragement to the private sector to get involved.
Councils have to sign off these plans before they can be delivered. Councillors - please say no, don't sign up to Slash, Trash and Privatise the NHS.
Don't put lives at risk
The government wants councils to sign up to plans now and commit to drastic cuts that will put people's lives at risk. The plans are expected to slash the number of A&Es in England: a third of health leaders are considering closing A&E departments. Staffordshire has announced that it will close an A&E department as a result of its STP. A 38 Degrees investigation showed that the plans include huge shortfalls of millions of pounds – patients just can't be cared for properly without more funding.
Hammersmith and Fulham, Ealing and Sutton councils have refused to sign up to the plans. What does the plan look like for your area? Will it put lives at risk?
“We condemn the Tory government for drawing up these plans. This is about closing hospitals and getting capital receipts. It’s a cynical rehash of earlier plans and is about the breaking up and selling off of the NHS. It will lead to a loss of vital services and will put lives at risk. Our job is to protect the NHS and this plan is about dismantling it. This document is an affront to the sensibilities of the people of north-west London.” Steve Cowan, leader of Hammersmith & Fulham council
“We refused to sign up to the STP plans because we do not support the closure of Ealing and Charing Cross acute hospitals … We have made it abundantly clear that we will campaign until our last breath to save Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals. We do support some of the proposals for more integrated health and social care but we feel we will be punished for not signing up to these plans.” Julian Bell, leader of Ealing council
Warning bells are ringing
Thankfully, all 44 of the STPs have now been published. But often they don't include important financial information and evidence. Julia Simon, the former head of NHS England commissioning, has denounced the STP process as 'shameful', 'mad', 'ridiculous' and the plans as full of lies. Only 16% of NHS finance directors believe sustainable STPs are achievable by 2021. The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has said "These plans that are emerging via different routes, if true, are potentially catastrophic and will put lives at risk" as almost a third of CCG leaders are considering closing emergency departments. How would your area deliver its plan? Is it realistic?
Defend our public NHS
Privatisation of our NHS is happening. Recently, Virgin won contracts for 200 NHS services in Bath. STPs will increase the pressure to privatise, both by running down the NHS with cuts (so the private sector can swoop in to provide the solution) and through guidance that encourages a key role for private companies in planning and delivering services. An NHS England director has said STPs offer private companies 'an enormous amount of opportunity'. Is that what people want in your area?
Privatisation wastes public money that could be spent on patient care. We already spend at least £4.5 billion on the NHS market. Private Finance Initiative deals have wasted £250 billion. We need to stop privatisation, not waste more money on it.
84% of the public support the NHS being publicly owned. The government knows privatising the NHS is hugely unpopular. That's why they're trying to devolve the decision making to local areas, taking the 'N' out of the NHS.
You're on the frontline
This is it now - you're on the frontline of saving our NHS. NHS England health plans assume partnership with local authorities and they imply shared responsibility for the (potentially very serious) consequences. That means councillors, council leaders and mayors can play a vital role by refusing to sign up to these plans. This is about local democracy. Please stand up for our NHS.