Phelim Mac Cafferty: Deep concern over plans for our NHS

Phélim Mac Cafferty is convener of the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council
Phélim Mac Cafferty is convener of the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council

Harmless as these plans sound, this week I learnt more of the detail behind the plans to ‘transform’ the NHS.

I have written previously about so-called ‘Sustainable Transformation Plans.’ Forty-four new NHS regions have been set up across England. Our region includes East Sussex, West Sussex and East Surrey. The stated aim of Sustainable Transformation Plans is to integrate health and social care services.

Harmless as these plans sound, this week I learnt more of the detail behind the plans to ‘transform’ the NHS. A report has been published which finally gives us some clues as to what is going on.

On the one hand the report reminds us the population is getting older and their health is deteriorating, yet simultaneously proposes a 40 per cent cut to the budget for emergency care for patients aged over 75. The report states that hospital bed provision is currently stretched to capacity and that demand will increase, yet there will be a 50 per cent cut in funding for hospital beds. GPs across the city are tasked with providing ‘clinical leadership’ yet GP surgeries are closing in our city at an alarming rate. This report would make many Swiss cheeses envious for the quantity of holes it exhibits.

One of the very few clear elements under STP is that NHS deficit budgets have to be cleared by 2020. In our region that will mean in excess of £650m will be cut from NHS Services. There is no way in which that can be done without colossally damaging implications for the National Health Service.

I am deeply concerned that the STP proposals have been put on the table at the same time as important parts of healthcare in our city have been put into special measures. In effect the private sector will be posed as the only way out for the NHS when we already know that market forces can neither allocate healthcare fairly, nor efficiently.

Green councillors have pushed for the maximum scrutiny of these plans including a meeting of the health overview and scrutiny committee devoted to studying the STP. Greens will continue to relentlessly push for the principle that the NHS is our most treasured national public service, that should be free at the point of entry.

Green councillors fully condemn the STP as a charter for mass cuts and privatisation. The damaging political agenda behind these cuts will hit the people who rely on the NHS most- the poorest and most marginalised.

We have also been concerned to see such little opposition from other local political parties. Labour controlled councils in Liverpool and in Camden have been swift to scrutinise and condemn these ‘STPs’ – but not so here.

It has been particularly appalling to read Labour’s chair of the health and wellbeing board, Cllr Daniel Yates, say he is ‘very happy to broadly comply’ with the massively damaging proposals outlined in this cuts charter.

We appeal to Labour to join us in refusing to support any plans that will damage our NHS.

It is worth reminding ourselves that only last year David Cameron said, ‘the NHS is safe in my hands’ when in reality the Conservative government is taking a sledgehammer to the NHS.

It is telling that this week the chief executive of NHS Providers reminded us that communities ‘have the ability to sink STP plans they don’t support’. Words we should take to heart in the weeks and months ahead.


Cllr Phelim Mac Cafferty is the convener of the Greens on Brighton and Hove City Council.