30th December 2016
By Julia Penhaligon
Planned cuts of at least £140million to Cornwall’s health service seem set to run into determined political opposition in the next few weeks.
Health campaigners and opposition parties are gearing up to make their views known at a series of public meetings planned across Cornwall.
Former St Ives MP Andrew George, who is also a former member of the Parliamentary Health Select Committee, today warned that the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) is “fundamentally budget-driven” and that it “merely rearranges the diminishing deckchairs of the NHS.”
The organisations involved in drawing up the STP document include Cornwall Council, Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CFT), Council of the Isles of Scilly (IoS), Kernow Health CIC, NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT). You can read the consultation document here.
The RCHT's chief executive Kathy Byrne has said the plan considered a wide range of potential savings, including the closure of acute hospital beds, community hospital beds and possibly entire community hospitals. Minor injury units are also under scrutiny. NHS staff who work in non-clinical areas are warned to expect job cuts.
"This document is just the beginning," she said. "It is just our earliest thoughts. There are no solutions in this document. Things don't change overnight. If you were starting from scratch, you wouldn't put things where they are today."
Graham Webster, of watchdog Health Initiative Cornwall, has said the consultation document confirmed his worst fears.
"We knew this was coming, and that it was likely to be bad news, and so it has turned out to be," he said. "This is going to be a very hard sell for the NHS. This is all about money, not patients."
In a sign that the debate is set to become more overtly party political, Liberal Democrat Mr George added: “The STPs are fundamentally budget-driven and are about forcing local communities to decide how to cut their own services.
"STPs run the high risk of diverting vital time and effort away from the very matters our communities should be most concerned about.
"Instead these projects would be better directed at identifying what resources a local NHS and social care service needs to be both safe and sustainable.”
One of the issues is that of "bed blocking" in which many patients, often elderly, have to stay in hospital even though they no longer need treatment because there is no suitable community care package in place for them to return home. Health chiefs are warning the deficit could reach £277 million by 2020 if they do nothing.
The NHS is organising a series of public “consultation” events next month:
Monday, 9 January 3:00 - 4:30pm: Bude Parkhouse Centre
Tuesday, 10 January 7:00 - 8:30pm: St John’s Hall, Penzance
Thursday, 12 January 10:30 - 12noon: Wesleyan Chapel, St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly
Thursday, 12 January 3:00 - 4:30pm: Bodmin Shire House Suite
Monday, 16 January 3:00 - 4:30pm: National Maritime Museum, Falmouth
Monday, 16 January 7:00 - 8:30pm: St Austell Print Company Conference Centre
Tuesday, 17 January 3:00 - 4:30pm: Liskeard Public Rooms
Wednesday, 18 January 3:00 - 4:30pm: Truro Health and Wellbeing Centre
Thursday, 19 January 7:00 - 8:30pm: Heartlands
Return to the Cornwall Reports front page.