Campaigners are to spell out their concerns about health and care integration plans at a special meeting at Hove Town Hall tomorrow morning (Tuesday 5 November).
Sussex Defend the NHS fears that the meeting will rubber-stamp an approach to health and care that opens the way to greater fragmentation of services and privatisation.
They plan to lobby the Brighton and Hove City Council Health and Wellbeing Board before members meet to discuss the “Sussex Health and Care Plan – the local response to the NHS Long-Term Plan”.
And they have urged supporters to join them outside the meeting to meet “Dr Death and our resident private sector vulture”.
But health chiefs were keen to reassure the public that there were no plans to privatise the NHS, with relatively few services contracted out in Sussex compared with some parts of the country.
Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said that the plan set out what was already happening and the priorities for the coming years.
Some of the campaigners’ concerns centre around the new “Integrated Care Systems” being set up around the country.
They said that they are based on American model that would make it easier for US corporations to come in buy up potentially profitable parts of the NHS.
But the CCG said: “There is a regulatory requirement set out in the NHS Long-Term Plan that all systems will develop into Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) by April 2021.
“The Sussex Health and Care Partnership’s strategic delivery plan, and the related technical submissions, will be a key driver of this.”
The campaigners also criticised the way that the council was deciding its strategy, through the Health and Wellbeing Board, which has 10 members. Five are councillors and five are from the CCG.
Sussex Defend the NHS said: “This is probably the most significant council decision in years affecting the lives of every single city resident.
“One committee without a councillor-voting majority is being left to make it.
“This is the ultimate rubber-stamping exercise engineered by the CCG to railroad through agreement.
“There is not only a democratic deficit but democracy is dead if this awful plan is voted through.”
At the CCG’s annual meeting, chief executive Adam Doyle said frankly in answer to a public question that one of the challenges around integration was cultural.
This was because councils are run by elected councillors from grassroots communities while the CCG – as part of the NHS – was part of a top-down organisation.
But its members and officials – like those on councils – had to obey the law and reach decisions within a policy framework set by central government while trying to pay attention to local needs and wishes.