Brighton and Hove political leader warns of ‘greatest threat to our NHS’

Posted On 07 Jun 2016 at 2:31 pm
By Phélim Mac Cafferty

After countless top-down reorganisations of the NHS over the last few decades, it has become abundantly clear that if you really have to change the system, it needs to be done carefully, rationally, and above all, led and owned by patients, frontline staff and communities.

That’s why it’s so disappointing that the latest plans, to merge service planning and budgets between Surrey, Sussex, and Brighton and Hove, seem to be repeating the mistakes of the past and excluding patients and front-line staff from the process entirely.

The implication is clear – this is yet another top-down reorganisation with no evidence that it can deliver.

The policy was announced in December 2015, and requires regional “footprints” (areas) to be established to create “Sustainability and Transformation Plans” by the end of this month.

It all sounds so benign, doesn’t it? The reality is that it could be the greatest threat to our NHS.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty

This is not an evidence-based move and it isn’t a response to popular demand for more NHS reform. It’s a rushed botch-job and I wouldn’t be surprised if it has escaped most people’s notice.

What is even more worrying is that while these footprints are expected to deliver greater integration between health and social care, councils and communities have been systematically excluded from key points in the process.

According to the Public Sector Executive, two thirds of councils in the country have been shut out from the process to select a leader for each footprint.

At the last meeting of the (Brighton and Hove) Health and Wellbeing Board it was telling that even senior council officers had substantial questions about the process. Not surprising given that there’s been minimal information and zero public consultation.

Policies that are brought in under the radar always make me question what hidden consequences they may herald.

Since the 2013 Health and Social Care Act scrapped the Secretary of State’s legal duty to provide comprehensive and universal healthcare, and extended a market-based approach to the NHS, the opportunities for full-scale private sector involvement in the NHS have been ripe. Which makes the latest moves so alarming.

All it could take now is a concerted push. Such a push might just come from a requirement for regional footprints to achieve financial balance. That means our region absorbing the massive £100 million deficit facing Sussex hospitals and bringing accounts back into balance.

Facing the challenge of making this work, footprints may be lured into private sector deals which will drive down service quality and pave the way for healthcare charges.

Aneurin "Nye" Bevan

Aneurin “Nye” Bevan

Our beloved NHS is facing a crisis. Despite repeated warnings that austerity would drive up NHS pressures, the government has failed to provide the funding that the entire health and care system needs.

Their response with these latest plans is to “devolve” the problem to regions while excluding local residents and their democratically elected representatives from the process entirely.

This is not the kind of change the NHS needs.

Far from further dismantling the NHS we desperately need a fully funded and publicly owned, renationalised NHS.

As Aneurin Bevan, the father of the NHS, wrote: “(The NHS) will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.”

Now is the time to be heard. We will lobby the next meeting of the health and wellbeing board on Tuesday 7 June from 4pm at the Brighthelm Centre.

To find out more about a national campaign against STP, click here.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is convenor of the Green group on Brighton and Hove City Council.

  1. Gerald Wiley Reply

    I don’t see what Phelim and the anti-privatisation of the NHS supporters are banging on about – other than promoting their anti-big business pro-nationalisation philosophy. The NHS needs to look at the most cost effective way of providing services and as long as they end up being free at the point of delivery, and they are of the right quality, then who really cares? I’ll be very interested to see what the ‘Health and Wellbeing’ meeting comes up with on this, as I am sure this has absolutely nothing to do with how the NHS is run. I’d also like to see what Phelim proposes to deal with funding for the ever increasing ages of patients requiring more, expensive services; the ever increasing cost of drugs to deal with the problems caused by age; and the ever growing size of the UK population wanting to take advantage of the NHS – rather than just, seemingly to be able to address all problems by just ‘stopping privatisation’.

    And as pointed out by Bill Ellson where Phelim’s ‘story’ was published 3 days ago in the Brighton & Hove Independent: Aneurin Bevan did not write those words, Trevor Griffiths wrote them in 1997 for his TV production ‘Food for Ravens’. The establishment of the National Health Service was a wartime coalition policy agreed across parties. Going into the 1945 general election it was agreed (1943 Labour conference / Minister of Health Conservative Henry Willink’s 1944 white paper ‘A National Health Service’) that when the NHS was established that hospitals would remain under local government / voluntary (charitable) ownership, but be co-ordinated by groups of local authorities. When Bevan became Minister of Health he got taken it by civil servants who persuaded him to nationalise hospitals, inevitably creating the situation of “countless top-down re-organisations of the NHS”

    Thanks Phelim – perhaps try to get some facts correct rather than just posting misinformation in support of STP.

  2. Dave Shagnasty Reply

    £75 million a year could be saved if the NHS scrapped its translation service….

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