• Deep concern expressed by councillors at programme of health cuts and centralisation

    24th January 2017 | News | Claire
  • STPs must be drawn up by all health areas in England under instructions from NHS England (basically Jeremy Hunt) that billions of pounds must be saved. For most areas this will mean significant cuts. In Devon more so than almost anywhere else because of the huge debts here, due to a combination of regional underfunding, flatlining growth funding and increased demand, particularly from older people with complex health needs.

    The Government initially forced health trusts to keep their plans secret until decisions were virtually made, presumably to avoid mass protest. However, the Devon STP was leaked to the BBC and revealed a widespread programme of cuts and centralisation of acute services. 

    There is now mass protest, quite understandably.

    Several members of the public addressed the committee including campaigners from north Devon and east Devon.

    I asked the STP panel, who were Phil Norrey, chief executive with Devon County Council, Angela Pedder, chief executive with the Success Regime, Janet Fitzgerald, chief executive with NEW Devon CCG and Laura Nicolas, chief nursing officer with NEW Devon CCG – about a timescale for consultation.

    We were told that a consultation on an ‘acute services review’ will take place in the summer.

    I also asked for assurances on plans to improve community services before any cuts were made. The answer was that the work was not at an advanced enough stage to say whether would happen for certain. 

    I replied that I would have thought that this would be fundamental to planning any major changes.  In my next question about what staff thought of the plans, it was revealed that there was concern about this very issue.

    On my question about beds, Angela Pedder replied that there are 600 people in beds who don’t need to be there, seeming to imply that this many beds across Devon’s acute and community hospitals may be cut.

    On the reply about whether the levels of staff may increase or decrease, Mrs Pedder said that if service cuts are made then the level of staff may change correspondingly.

    The leaked version of the STP certainly appeared to highlight the likelihood of fairly significant staff cuts.

    There were many other questions and the outcome was the following resolution, which was agreed following a drawn out spat between myself and Cllr Sara Randall Johnson, chair of people’s scrutiny committee about my proposal for an urgent meeting of the health and people scrutiny committees to examine social care challenges in more depth, which she opposed on the basis that her committee may not be able to vote.

    However, it was confirmed that all members of the committees could vote.

    I also proposed that a representative from NHS England should attend our next meeting.

    This was clarified in the end and the committee voted on the resolution in its entirety. We all voted in favour except for two conservative councillors, who bafflingly voted against.

    (b)  that the decision to call for a ‘pause’ in the work of the Success Regime/STP process taken by the County Council on an all-party basis be also noted and that the County Council continue to press for this to happen;

    (c) that as long as the Success Regime /STP process continues the County Council continues to consider and scrutinise the work being done;

    (d) that the Success Regime/STP organisation publish a clear Statement of its proposed next steps, including a timetable as soon as possible;

    (e) that Devon MPs be lobbied to act upon the Notices of Motions passed by Devon County Council and urge them to tackle NHS England and Government to halt the Success Regime/STP process and press for fair funding for Devon;

    (f) that Devon MPs be also urged to back all party calls for a holistic review of NHS/Social care funding processes;

    (g) that NHS England representatives be invited to a further meeting of Health and Wellbeing and People’s Scrutiny Committees with a view to seeking an undertaking that surplus assets would be given back to the community.     

    The webcast can be viewed here – https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/244718