You may remember the groups of mums from Darlington who marched from Jarrow to London in 2014 to raise awareness about the dangers facing our NHS.
This week some original members – who have formed a new group, 999NHSNorthEast – have been marching around County Durham and Teesside visiting hospitals that are threatened with closures and downgrades under the secretive “Sustainability & Transformation Plan” for the area, which NHS England has dubbed “Footprint 3”.
A draft version of the NE “Footprint” Sustainability and Transformation Plan shows a proposal to cut the area’s Accident and Emergency and acute care hospitals from five to just two or three. Consultant-led maternity and paediatric services are shown as being cut from four to two or three with neonatal services also at risk.
“Footprint March” participants and organisers have called on Local Authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups to publish the Sustainability and Transformation Plan, which was sent to NHS England on 21st October.
Update 27 Oct 2o16 -Hartlepool Council Leader Cllr Akers Belcher told march organiser Glen Hughes he would – and today, 27th October, he has. Here is the Durham, Darlington, Teesside, Hambleton, Richmondshire & Whitby Sustainability Transformation Plan
Thank you, Cllr Akers Belcher.
In contrast, Council Leaders in Lincolnshire and Devon have said they can’t get their hands on their counties’ STPs so they can’t publish them.
Marcher Joanne Land said:
“If these Sustainability & Transformation Plans are not full of worrying cuts and downgrades why don’t the local authorities and CCG’s just publish them so we can have an open debate?
The fact that NHS England has issued orders to clinical commissioning groups not to publish them until NHS England gives the say-so is, in itself, a big worry.”
In response to an email from Glen Hughes (one of the Footprint March organisers), leader of Hartlepool Council, on 26 Oct 2016 Cllr Akers-Belcher wrote,
“As you know I have already wrote to NHS England objecting to the lack of transparency and consultation around emerging STPs. Many thanks for the email… I have now located the plan…It shall be published on our website. I shall be issuing a press release as soon as it is done. I have asked for it to be done today.”
Other Council leaders around the country are also questioning the lack of democratic accountability in the STP procedures. Birmingham, Camden, and Sutton Council in SW London have already published their STPs on their council websites for the public to see. Leader of Camden Council, Councillor Sarah Hayward, wrote on the Council website that she has “serious reservations” because there has been “no political oversight, and minimal public and patient engagement” in the process.
The GP Chair of Birmingham Local Medical Committee says that the Birmingham STP is undeliverable. It aims to avoid the need for an extra 430 hospital beds by moving hospital services into the “community”. But Birmingham LMC chief Dr Robert Morley told GP Online:
“The STP, and in particular the plans to massively increase the delivery of out-of-hospital care, to transform general practice and to give it far greater responsibilities across a range of areas are simply undeliverable bearing in mind the meagre additional investment, the unambitious plans to increase primary care workforce and the woefully inadequate intention to support general practice sustainability and viability.”
Dr George Rae, chairman of the North East BMA, said
“When I speak to doctors they’re saying the STP is being brought in under the radar…
“I’m very sad that the consultation and the engagement has not, in any shape or form up till now, been all that it should have been.”
The Marchers will end their 8-day, 130+ miles campaign back in the High Row Darlington on Saturday afternoon at 4.30pm with a public rally with speakers and live music, plus a final walk to Darlington Memorial Hospital. The public are invited to join them.
By that time, the Footprint 3 Sustainability and Transformation plan will be published and the Footprints March organisers will be able to explain what it means.