Health campaigners have criticised the decision to withhold the Sustainability and Transformation plan on the future of the local NHS from the Health, Wellbeing and the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee to prevent it from being available to the public.
According to the report going to today’s meeting of the Committee:
“On 28th September, the HOSC chairs of Birmingham and Solihull will receive a private briefing on the status of the STP plan. We cannot release the plan to Scrutiny in the normal way as this would in effect release it into the public domain, which we are currently being advised not to do until after 21st October.”
Keep our NHS Public Birmingham are concerned that the withholding of the plan both frustrates the role of the Scrutiny Committee which has important legal duties to hold the NHS to account for changes to local services and the wider public by keeping the plan secret for a further month.
There is however local precedence, with a draft version of the Black Country STP being published and discussed by the equivalent Wolverhampton Scrutiny committee in July.
The Sustainability and Transformation Plans for the NHS are being drawn up for 44 footprint areas across England. STPs are five-year plans covering all areas of NHS spending in England up until 2021.
The Birmingham and Solihull NHS footprint is being led by Mark Rogers, the Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council. The Birmingham and Solihull STP footprint covers a population of 1,215,000 and the current NHS spend is £309,663,467. It overlaps the Birmingham and Solihull local authority areas.
KONP is concerned that the plans will be used to make major cuts to the NHS as health funding significantly lags behind the growing health needs of the population. The Government refers to a £22bn national gap between funding and demand for health services by 2021. The papers to the Scrutiny Committee show that for Birmingham and Solihull that “financial gap in 2020/1 will grow to £713m”.
At the last Council meeting Cllr John Cotton, the chair of the Scrutiny Committee, told Council that the public have a right to know what is proposed by the STP’s, what might change in their NHS services and how they can challenge and influence those decisions. He criticised the fact that so far the STP process had not been transparent and accountable.
KONP Birmingham has written to Cllr Cotton to ask how his Scrutiny Committee will ensure that there is effective public consultation over changes to the local NHS in the years to come. There are important legally defined principles on the way in which the public should be consulted by public authorities over proposed changes to services.
According to KONP Birmingham:
The previous Coalition and present Tory Government have and are deliberately underfunding the NHS. A growing resource crisis is developing within the NHS as there is insufficient investment in health to meet the needs of the population. The STP plans are a way to shrink the overall NHS footprint and the plans will involve cuts and major changes to the way the NHS is organised. It is imperative that the public know what these plans propose and have a right to be properly consulted.