AN NHS cuts programme that could force hospital and A&E closures has been kept from the public, according to a King’s Fund report released today.
And the think tank criticises the lack of involvement of front-line staff and patients in these sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), with one local manager saying: “I’ve been in meetings where I’ve felt a little bit like, you know, ‘where are the real people in this’?”
The report reveals the lengths NHS England has gone to keep the bad news under wraps, including passing on instructions to actively reject Freedom of Information Act requests to see draft plans.
It told its 44 local health leaders not to share the drastic plans for £22 billion of “savings” needed to balance the NHS books by 2020 with the public or the media until they were approved by its own officials.
One hospital chief described the level of secrecy demanded as “ludicrous.”
Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy, said the secretive nature of the plans was “simply not good enough.
“There are many assumptions in these plans about cutting services, which will impact on patient care. This puts patients at risk,” she warned.
The report details how some leaders “felt that STPs had ‘created an industry’ for management consultants,” and asks why money is being invested in “advice from private companies instead of in front-line services.”
King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham claimed: “The introduction of STPs has been beset by problems and has been frustrating for many of those involved, but it is vital that we stick with them.”
But shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘These plans, drawn up behind closed doors, often with little to no local authority and public involvement, just won’t do.
“People are rightly concerned these plans are driven by cost-saving and cuts rather than clinical need. It’s up to [Health Secretary] Jeremy Hunt and the government to urgently prove otherwise.”