|fictional image, but this could be the future of the NHS|
Hospital services in Lancashire are gradually being privatised, and it's all being done before any public consultation takes place.
THE News a few weeks back of the possibility of Chorley and Preston hospitals losing their acute services with all other services being provided at a super-hospital came as a shock to many.
But for those who follow the changes in health services will recall that the idea of 'polyclinics' and 'super-hospitals' has been in the pipeline for a long time.
Back in 2012 the 'Independent' ran an article about what might happen if a hospital trust in serious deficit failed to pay its debts. It was mentioned that the DoH was unable to explain what will happen if a trust fails to pay its debts or how services to patients would be maintained.
"The scale of the challenge facing the NHS is revealed in figures showing that 34 trusts ran up combined debts of £356m in 2011-12 and another 42 relied on handouts from local health authorities or the Department of Health (DoH) to keep them going – almost 19 per cent of the 411 NHS organisations in total, MPs say".
For example, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in 2012 suggested administrators might be appointed to oversee the crisis-hit South London NHS Healthcare Trust and recommended that it be broken up and run by neighbouring NHS trusts, or offered to private companies.
Another example given is about a trust, which runs three hospitals in south London – the Princess Royal in Bromley, the Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich and Queen Mary's in Sidcup – overspent by £65m last year (2011), or more than £1m a week, and became the first in the country to be taken over by government-appointed administrators.
The same fate awaits other trusts unless they take radical action to cut budgets by closing departments and merging services with neighbouring organisations. What we saw in the news article the other week about Chorley And Preston & a super-hospital was a glimpse of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals trust 'sustainability & transformation plan' or STP for short. And there's a reason they've kept the STP quiet for so long.
Now recall from my previous post that in June last year, the health watchdog 'NHS Improvement' said it had "serious concerns" over Lancashire Teaching hospital trust's finances after it predicted a £44m rise in its deficit. The Lancashire NHS Trust's budget was forecast to rise from £2.8m in 2015 to £46.8m this year .
Something drastic needed to be done. The Lancashire trust simply cannot continue to borrow money to prop-up its services without facing serous financial penalties. Or worse, having to be placed in special measures thus losing its 'foundation trust' status, and ulitmately going bancrupt.
This is where the transformation 'plan' comes in.
To remain financially viable, the Lancashire trust must run a 'two-step' process that involves relinquishing some services to the private sector, such as the recent contract awarded to the private provider gtd healthcare to run its urgent care centres, followed by a merger with neighbouring trusts.
The merger as we now know; is already taking place between Lancashire & South Cumbria under the STP reconfiguration plans. NHS England boss Simon Stevens wrote to all hospital trusts in England last year ordering them to get their finances under control and prepare to implement the 'five-year forward view', a document all trusts have been working towards over the last few years.
The 5-year forward view, which includes STP plans for all trusts, involves dividing NHS trusts in England into 44 regions called 'footprints'.
Each footprint, such as Lancashire & South Cumbria, have been ordered to produce a plan by 30th June this year to completely change the way the NHS works. This is why we didn't hear about the proposed merger and super-hospital in Lancashire until only a few weeks ago.
Footprint Boards have to prove they can clear their debts within a year. And how do they do that? They must cut more services, close more beds, sell off land and hospitals that are public assets.
The details of each STP plan for each region will vary, but essentially most if not all local hospitals will no longer provide emergency/acute services and instead be run by private consortiums under the NHS kitemark.
Think of this as having a combined hospital & urgent care centre using an 'integrated' approach with elective surgery and some emergency medicine (not A&E) provided by a very large consortium of GP's and nurse practitioners. Essentially, the kaiser permanente American insurance model of a 'polyclinic'. All major A&E/trauma will be provided at the super-hospital, which, will eventually be run as a public/private venture (think of this as a PFI but for healthcare services).
The internal market created in the NHS has indeed got the ball rolling for a full privatisation of our NHS, and we have been betrayed by all those who failed to prevent it. Made much worse of course by the Health & social care bill sauntering through parliament into an Act in 2012 that allows such a takeover of publically run services.
The closure of Chorley A&E was no accident, since the Lancashire teaching hospital trust were told in 2014 by the CQC to recruit A&E doctors & nurses to sustain services for the future. The trust chose instead to run a skeleton staff coupled with agency cover alongside consultants paid over-inflated salaries to fill the rotas.
We, as stakeholders and users of these services are now paying the price for trust managers failing to take action when they should have. But there is hope.
The trust boards are now well aware they are under more scrutiny that that of the CQC. WE are watching, and more importantly we intend stopping their secret STP Plans before they take hold of our services and hand them over to their private buddies.
MP's and others may have been sleep walking when they allowed the health & social care act to saunter through parliament. But that's where it STOPS, and now we know the overall plan to denationalise our NHS we can take evasive action and stop it in it tracks.
Our Networks are now in place, there will be no footprints, there will be no NHS take-over. And when the time comes, we will be prepared to fight for something that nobody will ever again attempt to take away from us again.
There has been no openness and transparency, We have no choice, we must STOP these plans.