Local Tories channel Trump in attempt to bamboozle over cuts to Devon’s NHS

A rather Trumpist email (sent to me by a concerned resident) appears to be a stock response being circulated to people contacting their conservative councillors about the service cuts being made to the NHS in Devon, as part of a government instruction to save over £400m by 2024.

The annual budget is £2.6bn.

It comes after a previous attempt to make significant savings to Devon’s NHS failed, partly because the government forced a £30bn ‘efficiency savings’ programme on the NHS nationally and reduced the annual increment from around six per cent in 2010, to around one per cent during the past decade.

The email from conservative councillors to concerned residents appears to be both an attempt to confound residents and at the same time disparage me.

The situation has arisen following a meeting of Devon County Council’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee on 12 March, where councillors received a presentation from Philippa Slinger, chief executive of Devon Together, on the county’s NHS’s precarious financial position and what measures were being taken to reduce spending, in order to break even by 2024.

I made a proposal at the meeting to suspend this requirement during the Covid19 pandemic to make these cuts, which was met with derision by conservative councillors.  Mrs Slinger herself also claimed there were no cuts proposed.

I replied that this was semantics and that most people would regard the list below as evidence of cuts.

My proposal was seconded by Martin Shaw but received no other backers, so it was lost. Instead, a proposal from the chair to bring the subject back to a later meeting, was supported.

At the meeting, Mrs Slinger made the following points in relation to what work (cuts!) needed to be done to get Devon’s NHS back on financial track:

  • A reduction in agency staff
  • More efficiency relating to the number of surgical procedures
  • Reducing hospital lengths of stay
  • Fewer admissions
  • Reducing overnight stays after surgery
  • Capping referrals
  • Trying to source less expensive pharmaceuticals
  • Reducing the cost of procurement, such as replacement hips
  • Reducing the number of outpatient appointments by between 60 and 70 per cent
  • Doing less work in the independent sector
  • Reducing overseas recruitment
  • Improving staff retention
  • E-consultations in primary care (GP surgeries)

The presentation in the agenda papers also outlines the broad areas for action as the following:

  • Address the challenges of increasing demand of hospital beds
  • Transforming out of hospital care and integrating community services
  • Reducing outpatient appointments by 30 per cent
  • Consideration of creation of a major diagnostic centre in Devon
  • Travelling further for planned care, such as a hip operation
  • Widening access to online GP consultations
  • New technology monitoring equipment supporting people to live independently in their own homes
  • Support more people in their home and community and avoid urgent admissions to hospital
  • Improving cancer outcomes
  • Improving mental health services through a ring-fenced investment fund
  • Shorter waits for planned care through protected capacity (capping referrals)
  • Reducing health inequalities
  • Setting minimum requirements for community based care to reduce pressure on emergency hospital services

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Here’s the email:

Dear

The CCG did not put forward any proposals to cut their budget by £400 million. The total NHS Budget in Devon is £2 billion. However, as made clear in their Committee documents, they are currently forecast to overspend that Budget by approximately £100 million a year if they take no action. What the CCG outlined to the Committee were indicative measures to try to contain that overspend and balance their books. That is totally different from cutting your budget by £400 million – THEY ARE NOT REDUCING THEIR BUDGET NOR HAVE THEY ANNOUNCED ANY PLANS TO DO SO.

 Philippa Slinger said very clearly – in plain English – at the meeting “there are not cuts.” Neither the Labour or Liberal Democrat members of the Committee supported Cllr Wright’s poorly worded and financially inaccurate and illiterate motion and if the concerns of xxxxx were true, then the Labour Party is in support of ‘£400 million of NHS cuts’ too!

 Actually the fact is, that during this pandemic the NHS and Devon County Council secured an additional 194 beds in Devon. There will be a further 120 beds in the new Nightingale Hospital, which the Government have confirmed will be used to help routine tests and scans, along with Winter Pressures this coming season and will be an enormous benefit to our NHS here in Devon. None of these improvements sound like cuts to me.

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Here’s the speaker itemised webcast of the meeting. Item 7 https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/455423/start_time/3226000

Here is the relevant agenda paper. Item 7: https://democracy.devon.gov.uk/documents/s30199/long%20term%20plan.pdf

And here’s the additional paper. Item 7: https://democracy.devon.gov.uk/documents/b12111/Long%20Term%20Plan%20Presentation%2012th-Mar-2020%2014.15%20Health%20and%20Adult%20Care%20Scrutiny%20Committee.pdf?T=9

Here’s my blog post following the meeting: https://claire-wright.org/devon-scrutiny-councillors-vote-down-proposal-to-suspend-nhs-cuts-requirement/