Brighton and Hove Green Party has criticised the lack of consultation on a plan to save £864 million in the local NHS.
The drive for savings forms part of the “sustainability and transformation plan” (STP) for the NHS area – known as a footprint – that covers East Surrey and Sussex.
NHS England wrote to the council this week about the local STP, saying that it was now moving “from a planning phase to implementation”.
The letter – from interim regional director south Jennifer Howells – follows a motion passed by Brighton and Hove City Council in its last meeting before Christmas about the STP process.
It highlighted concerns raised by the council about “the adequacy of public engagement and transparency of the process”.
And the letter from the council said: “The council will aim to ensure greater transparency of the planning process and fuller engagement with our local community.”
After NHS England replied, Brighton and Hove Greens expressed alarm that the letter contained no detail on plans for public consultation despite the statement about the STP moving “to implementation”.
The Greens also criticised the council’s Labour administration and Conservative opposition group for inaction and a lack of vigilance over the STP. The plan will pave the way for further outsourcing of NHS services, the Greens fear.
The party said that STP will be used to bring in cuts and changes to emergency services, access to hospital beds and social care to achieve the £864 million savings.
At last month’s council meeting the Green group put forward a motion asking that the council to cease to co-operate with the STP process until adequate consultation had taken place. The call was backed by local campaigners Sussex Defend the NHS.
But after what the Greens described as a “wrecking amendment”, Labour and the Conservatives refused to support the proposal.
The party cited a recent survey of 700 residents by Brighton University, which was reported to councillors in November. It suggested that at least 90 per cent of the public want councillors to campaign against impending STP cuts.
Councillor Dick Page, a Green member of the Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “While nationally the government is widely seen as in denial about any crisis about pressures on hospitals, and three parliamentary select committees call for a cross-party solution to funding, we have a local Conservative councillor remarking that ‘the NHS will always demand more money’, and a Labour Councillor stating: ‘We should be getting more deeply involved in the STP process.’
“After Labour councillors voted with the Tories to defeat the Green call not to co-operate further with this secretive STP, there is no doubt that locally Labour and the Tories are unwilling to push hard on exposing the truth of NHS cuts.
“Unsurprisingly, the response from the NHS to their ‘concerns’ is weak. The letter makes no mention of any ‘greater transparency’, no detail on what the STP operational plans for the next two years actually involve and no public consultation details, which is what the Greens were asking for.
“We will continue to resist this degradation of our NHS and work with the public to keep up the pressure for a properly resourced service.
“We call again on the Labour administration to stop endorsing the STP – a Conservative government strategy designed to destabilise our health service.”
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