Published: 30 September, 2016
By TON FOOT
HEALTH chiefs have warned that “difficult decisions” lie ahead as they justify another major reorganisation of north London’s National Health Service.
Camden Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – the health authority run by GPs under government health reforms – discussed the complex proposals at its annual general meeting last week.
Critics believe that new “Sustainability Transformation Plans” (STPs) are effectively a blueprint for major cuts to healthcare services across north London.
“STPs are the biggest threat to the NHS that people have never heard of,” said Dr John Lister, who is secretary of campaigning organisation Keep Our NHS Public.
“Many people are aware of the growing financial squeeze on the NHS and the deficits of local trusts. But far fewer will know that these secret five-year plans are being drawn up, aiming to railroad through unpopular decisions and hospital closures.”
The Department for Health has demanded that all health authorities create an STP to show the NHS services it will fund for the next five years while cutting its deficit.
Camden Council chief executive Mike Cooke and Royal Free chief executive David Sloman are among the senior bosses who are working on the North Central London NHS’s STP – behind closed doors.
According to Camden’s most recent board notes, a “case for change” has already been agreed by health bosses in North Central London (NCL). The NCL sector is five boroughs including the Camden and Islington sector that has – collectively – an £121m deficit.
The CCG board papers warn that “if nothing changes”, the deficit would rise to a huge £876m, by 2020/21.
Some of the jargon and bureaucratic terms in the report, such as “proven case for change”, combined with an alarming projection over the deficit – the report does not explain why the deficit will rise so dramatically in the next five years – will concern health campaigners who believe it is laying the foundations for a major cuts programme.
The Royal Free, in a statement on its website, said the changes would not lead to “doing less for patients or reducing the quality of care provided”. But it added: “It means more preventative care, finding new ways to meet people’s needs, and identifying ways to do things more efficiently.”
The CCG report said said: “Difficult decisions lie ahead. These include working through arrangements that will mean that, organisationally, the NCL health and care system will look very different following transformation.”
The CCG’s AGM is at its offices in 30 Euston Square and chairwoman Caz Sayer said: “We will also discuss the Sustainability and Transformation Plan, where we are working with neighbouring boroughs to ensure the local NHS continues to improve despite the many challenges we face.”