Leeds Saturday 28th Jan protest at BBC failure to report on Sustainability & Transformation Plan threat to NHS

On Saturday 28th January from 11am-12.30pm outside BBC Leeds, there will be a noisy protest at BBC Leeds’ failure to report on drastic plans to cut and privatise the NHS.

People will be gathering with whistles, gongs, pans, drum, trumpets, vuvuzelas, or other noisy instruments and willing to emit a blood-curling howl or two.

Since they were published at the end of last year, Sustainability and Transformation Plans have been met by widespread opposition both from Councils – which are supposed to be partners in the plans – and by Protect the NHS groups.

You wouldn’t know it from the BBC

They didn’t turn up to report on Monday’s West Yorkshire and Harrogate Joint Health Scrutiny Committee, held in Leeds, where Councillors heard that the West Yorkshire and Harrogate STP Leader Rob Webster had refused a request from the Chair of 999 Call for the NHS (Calderdale and Kirklees), Jenny Shepherd, to release key Sustainability and Transformation Plan information that had been withheld from the public and councillors.

She told Councillors that the response from Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group’s Governance Officer, on behalf of Rob Webster, was that they have the information, but they are not going to release it – even though they admit that it would be in the public interest to disclose the information.

This is because they say that the Sustainability and Transformation Plan team, NHS England and NHS Improvement would not hold frank and free discussions if they  knew that what they said and wrote was going to be made public.

Jenny Shepherd asked the Councillors,

“So what are the unspeakable things that the STP team and the quangos are thinking?”

The Scrutiny Committee Chair, Cllr Gruen, said that this was new information for Councillors, and that it was disgraceful that they haven’t had any proper information about the West Yorkshire and Harrogate STP.

He noted that Jim Mackay, the NHS Improvement boss, has said that local politicians should be managed,  and added,

“I take a dim view of the fact that  senior officers of Leeds Council can spend 6 months in NHS England meetings and not come to scrutiny to say what has happened or share a draft plan”.

The BBC did not attend or report on this important meeting of Councillors from Harrogate and the whole of West Yorkshire, although they received a press release about it.

The BBC is a public interest broadcasting company. It needs to do what it says on the tin.

Before Christmas, on the local BBC TV news after the 6pm national news, there was one short, one-sided report on the Sustainability and Transformation Plan that basically consisted of an interview with the West Yorkshire & Harrogate STP Leader. There was no balance with an alternative view from Stop STP campaigners, NHS frontline staff or patients.

This is such an important issue, we need the BBC to report it fully.

The whole set of changes laid out in NHS England’s 5 Year Forward View 2015-2020 – and the Sustainability and Transformation Plans which are intended to implement this plan at speed, across the board – are modelled on systems used in the USA by the global American Health insurance company, United Health – NHS England Chief Exec Simon Stevens’ former employer.

If the implementation of the Sustainability and Transformation Plans goes ahead, the NHS will be transformed into a reduced service that is largely a funding stream and a logo, wide open to United Health, its subsidiary Optum and some UK companies. Already Optum has significant contracts both for commissioning support and for frontline NHS services – meaning it is in the entirely invidious position of being able to advise clinical commissioning groups to award contracts to itself.

With new trade deals coming up between UK and the USA, post- Brexit, we could well see an effective takeover of the NHS by the American health industry. The most expensive and ineffective system in the world.

Our NHS online news reports that only 1 in 7 members of the public know about Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). The BMA reports that doctors have been kept in the dark about the Plans.

It is vital that the BBC as our own public service broadcaster informs the public about the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Sustainability and Transformation Plan  –  one of 44 such plans imposed across England by the government’s quangos NHS England and NHS Improvement.

Following the Scrutiny Committee meeting, Cllr Gruen wrote to the Yorkshire Evening Post, which ran a special article which included a mistaken report that the West Yorkshire and Harrogate STP has not been published. It has, but minus all its appendices and other key information that was sent to NHS England but kept from Councillors, the public and NHS frontline staff.

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