The government must rethink latest NHS plans

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Our NHS is about to undergo more major changes. Sustainability and Transformation Plans will do little to address the real problems our health services face.

Before entering the Commons I worked for 33 year in the National Health Service and saw and experienced on a daily basis the service it provided to millions across the UK, from GPs to world leading research and development.

The NHS provides universal healthcare free at the point of delivery, night and day, seven days a week, in times when patients are at their most vulnerable and helpless.

It is therefore a tragedy and an outrage that 80% of hospitals are in debt, that faced with an aging population we find waiting times lengthening for cancer treatment, under funding for social care, and mass staff shortages in hospitals. Now is the time to show our commitment to the NHS and to give it the funding it needs to succeed for all patients.

If the government thinks Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) are the answer then they're asking the wrong questions.

The 44 ‘footprints’ that the STPs are implementing and integrating are being proposed as more control and better choice for communities and patient care, but the diagnosis is in the detail, and in reality under this government it means closures and cuts.

STPs have been shrouded in secrecy and drawn up behind closed doors. There has been no public consultation and a staggering lack of evidence to show that it will deliver the reductions and improvements that the government promises. It will be untried, untested and will come an unimaginable cost to patients if it is not the right path to pursue.

STPs outline the five-year plan covering all areas of NHS spending in England which includes the government asking them to deliver an eye watering of £22bn worth of “efficiency savings” by 2020. Failure to do so and meet these financial targets will lead to their constituent parts, the CCGs and Trusts, losing their opportunity to acquire ‘Transformation Fund’ money and risk being taken into ‘special measures’. This spells out to me fewer beds, less treatment and fewer staff and all against the backdrop of achieving improvements across the board of 29 measurements. This expectation is unreasonable and unobtainable.

As with the disastrous 2012 Health and Social Care Act, overseen by the former prime minister and now former MP for Witney, these proposals are embarking on a journey to another calamitous reorganisation of the NHS. It is now a necessity that the government abandons this timetable and scheduling of such a major restructure package. Maybe like the former prime minister now is the time to step down and take stock.

I am calling on the Government and the Secretary of State for Health to go back and reconsider not only the time frame but the proposals in general and to have a full and frank public consultation allowing for transparency and debate at the local and national level.

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Watch my full speech on this issue in parliament here, or you can read it here

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