Cuts to NHS services planned across England in government efficiency drive

NHS

Plans for hospital and A&E closures, ward closures, cuts to bed numbers and changes to GP and community care have emerged, says the BBC. The proposals are said to have been drawn up in an effort to meet efficiency savings set by government and are likely to affect NHS services in 44 areas across England.

The BBC reports that it has seen “draft sustainability and transformation plans” - STPs – which detail cuts to bed numbers of up to 20%, changes to A&E services, one A&E closure, one hospital closure and changes to primary care services provided by GP practices. STPs are drafted locally in order to identify areas where potential savings could be made in order to meet cost efficiencies set by former Chancellor George Osborne and NHS England head Simon Stevens in late 2015.

Efficiency targets

NHS England has been tasked with achieving £22billion in savings by April 2021 and the draft STPs are expected to be signed off and finalised this October, for implementation early next year, however, many are yet to be published or subjected to public scrutiny or consultation, say the BBC.

Campaign organisation 38 Degrees is said to have been alerted to many of the unpublished draft proposals, which are reported to include:

  • the closure of Midland Metropolitan Hospital’s A&E department
  • plans to reduce the number of hospital sites in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland from three to two
  • a ‘review’ of GP surgeries due to funding shortages
  • the equivalent of five ward closures in the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust
  • a possible reduction of mental health inpatient sites in West Yorkshire.

Patients “inconvenienced” with little money saved

Health think tank the Nuffield Trust says that STPs could result in “fundamental changes” to services, many of the plans fail to meet financial targets and will also leave the “dauntingly large” task of implementation.

Sally Gainsbury, senior policy analyst with the Nuffield Trust, says: "It looks like quite a lot of these plans at the moment are proposing big, large-scale reconfigurations - that's shifting services or shutting services down.

"Our research finds that, in a lot of these kinds of reconfigurations, you don't save very much money - all that happens is the patient has to go to the next hospital down the road.

"They're more inconvenienced, they have to travel further, but it rarely saves the money that's needed."

Laura Townshend, Director at 38 Degrees, says: "This is new evidence that plans are being made to close local NHS services. We all rely on these services, yet we are being kept in the dark.

"These proposed cuts aren't the fault of local NHS leaders. The health service is struggling to cope with growing black holes in NHS funding.

"The NHS belongs to all of us - so local people should get a say in any changes to their local services."

Doctor

An “exercise in collaboration”

A spokeswoman for NHS England told BBC News: "This is a unique exercise in collaboration. It is hardly a secret that the NHS is looking to make major efficiencies and the best way of doing so is for local doctors, hospitals and councils to work together to decide the way forward in consultation with local communities.

"Proposals are at a draft stage but we expect all local leaders to be talking to the public and stakeholders regularly - it is vital that people are able to shape the future of their local services.

"No changes to the services people currently receive will be made without local engagement and, where required, consultation. There are longstanding assurance processes in place to make sure this happens."


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