CAMPAIGNERS from across Yorkshire are preparing to join mass protests in London as they call for action over “indicipherable” sustainability plans outlining the future of the NHS.
Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), aim to hread off an estimated £22bn financial black hole for the NHS by April 2021 by altering the way care is delivered, with healthcare providers looking to reduce deficits of £2bn in Yorkshire alone.
Now, as opponents to the scheme dismiss these plans as “jargon-filled” and a “smokescreen for cuts”, campaigners are demanding the process is brought to halt.
“This is happening in a health service which is already straining at the seams, creaking at the edges, and is already underfunded,” said York campaigner Anne Leonard, of the Defend our NHS York campaign group.
“The STP should be stopped in its tracks. The NHS is our most amazing institution. Yet it is being allowed to wither, with vultures picking at the corpse as it is drained of funding.”
Coaches from across the country are heading to London for the Our NHS protest marches on March 4, from York, Leeds, Sheffield, Calderdale, Craven, Doncaster and Huddersfield.
The marches, to highlight the challenges the NHS is facing, will make the point that Government demands for more austerity represent a real risk to provision nationwide.
NHS England says change is absolutely vital if it is live within its budgets. But, it argues, the STP plans are not just about saving money – they present an opportunity to improve patient care at a time when it is clear that change is needed.
But campaigners in Yorkshire say the documents covering their area, the Humber, Coast and Vale, are “indicipherable” and almost impossible to understand.
“This is happening in the ignorance of most people,” said Mrs Leonard. “It’s ridiculous. The STP is full of platitudes, worst of all being that people should live well and age well – well who doesn’t want that?
“At the end of that document we know nothing about what is actually happening. It’s impossible for us to interpret the jargon. It’s a smokescreen for cuts. The whole situation is so complex that most people don’t realise what’s happening. People are blinded by bureaucracy and jargon.
“The public has got to be made aware of what’s going on. Then hopefully they can get on to Government to stop this happening.
“We are hoping that finally our message will get through that this country is not prepared to see its NHS dismantled.”
Emma Latimer, Humber Coast and Vale STP lead said: “We understand the passion that people feel about their local health and care services and we are actively seeking contributions as we start to develop our more detailed service plans.
“We have drafted our initial proposals using feedback gathered over the past three years from more than 30,000 people living across the region. The detail of how services will be delivered in the future will become clearer as we gain more valuable insights from the public and develop our plans over the coming months.
“Any service changes that are proposed through this process will be subject to public consultation.”
STPs are five-year plans covering all NHS spending in England. They described as a tool by which NHS England can meet its pledge to plug a £22bn hole in the health service budget using efficiency savings and new ways of delivering care. Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, secured an agreement from then Prime Minister David Cameron of an extra £8bn of funding by 2020/2021 towards an expected deficit of £30bn.
A spokesperson for NHS England: “STPs are about making practical, common-sense changes in areas that really matter to patients, such as making it easier to see a GP and speeding up cancer diagnosis. With the NHS and local councils now working more closely together than ever, we can give our doctors, nurses and care staff the best chance of success. Those suggesting it is about privatisation have got the wrong end of the stick.”