The Labour Party will ‘fight’ secret plans for ‘sustainability and transformation’ being drawn up around the country where these focus on cuts and closures.
In her headline speech to the Labour Party annual conference today, shadow health secretaty Diane Abbott warned that these plans, known as STPs, are ‘increasingly looking like a vehicle to drive through cuts and closures’.
Her pledge comes as the Guardian has revealed that the Labour-run west London councils of Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham have already refused to sign their local plans amid fears two local hospitals could lose their A&E units.
NHS England has asked 44 regions of England to come up with long-term plans for changes in their local health systems – including general practice – that will ensure they are ‘sustainable’ going forward.
Pulse has revealed that one STP area is proposing to reduce the numbers of GP practices, claiming that the current set-up will ‘will over-stretch… workforce and finances’, while another is planning to cut GP workload by a third and significantly reducing patients’ face-to-face contact with primary care.
But, although they have been in the works for over seven months, most GPs and patients are expected to have first sight of the plans when they are published next month.
Ms Abbott said: ‘Jeremy Hunt’s answer to the £22bn [NHS] funding gap are the Sustainability and Transformation Plans that you have all heard about. Some of these plans may be a good idea but let me tell you, increasingly these STPs look like a vehicle to drive through cuts and closures.
‘I have already led a debate on the STPs in Parliament and I can assure conference that where these STPs are purely about cuts, Labour will fight them all the way.’
Meanwhile, NHS England has said it will only approve plans which are ‘supportive’ of general practice.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has said STP regions have identified the need for investment in new and existing GP premises, with now being the ‘ideal time’ to invest.
Local papers in London have also reported on the leaked STP from northwest London planning to cut 500 hospital beds.
Pulse recently asked every one of the 44 regions to share the plans, but every single one refused, while campaign group 38 Degrees has also campaigned for the STPs to be made public.
In her speech to the Labour Party conference, Ms Abbott further pledged Labour in power would halt privatisation of the NHS, including repealing the Health and Social Care Act 2012, support junior doctors in their dispute with the Government over contracts, call for reassurance for EU national NHS workers in light of Brexit, and reinstate nurse student bursaries which were recently cut.
What are STPs?
At the end of last year, NHS England tasked regional teams, CCGs, trusts and local authorities with forming regional footprints, and then write plans for how the NHS Five Year Forward View would be delivered within them.
By January, 44 footprints were formed, and by 30 June each had submitted its first draft Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) to NHS England.
As previously reported by Pulse, each plan has to address ‘sustainability and quality’ of general practice, including both ’workforce and workload issues’.
At the time, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ’This guidance sets out the next steps to make the vision set out in the Five Year Forward View a reality.
‘A new approach to how local NHS leaders plan to meet health needs across whole areas will sit alongside the new Sustainability and Transformation Fund established as part of our £560bn funding plan for the NHS.’