Cllr Jason Arthur
The NHS’s local draft Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) for health and social care was discussed by Steve Hitchins, Chair of Whittington Health, Councillor Jason Arthur, Cabinet Member for Finance and Health, Haringey Council and Professor Sue Richards of Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), at a well attended meeting on 12th December at St Mary’s School, Hornsey.
Cllr Arthur told the audience whilst the STP’s aims were fine, there were concerns at the lack of detail, transparency and funding for social care and public health; greater detail, more public involvement and a clear framework of responsibility were needed before the Council could consider endorsing the STP.
He also explained that increasing council tax, the Government’s only proposal to address the huge gap in local authority budgets for social care, is both inadequate and unjust. Current proposals only give Haringey an additional £1.8 million to bridge the gap of £12 million in their social care budget following 40% cuts; the increase in council tax will hit the poorest in Haringey hardest as two thirds of households paying the tax are in Band E or below.
Steve Hitchins described the Whittington as ‘quite a small community hospital with a wide range of community services’, and stressed his pride at its achievements, including an innovative ambulatory care unit and well regarded A&E, a destination of choice for ambulance paramedics. He was determined to protect it and optimistic about its ability to achieve the demands of the STP, building on existing developments in day and community provision, consolidating clinical expertise, shared back office functions and its record in developing and maintaining partnerships. Whittington Health is developing an email Forum with a target of 100,000 subscribers and will take no major strategic decisions without consulting the Forum.
Sue Richards told the meeting that most experts now believe that national health budgets need to grow at 3% or 4% per annum in response to increasing life expectancy. She said that in 2010 the UK health service was funded to European levels, but now spending is only increasing by 1% per annum we are falling far behind our neighbours. ‘If the NHS was funded to French levels, it would have £20 billion more, if funded to German levels it would have £40 billion more.’ Professor Richards noted that 30% of the STPs published nationally involve the closure of A&E Departments to save money and stressed the importance of challenging the plans on social care and public health.
Steve Hitchins agreed with a questioner that integrating services does not in itself save money but argued that ‘attacking the purchaser-provider split’ could make a real difference. He strongly favoured democratic control of health services in future, with local authority chief executives and Health and Well Being Boards taking responsibility for integrated provision. Jason Arthur stressed the need for greater transparency and detail: ‘Vagueness breeds cynicism.’
Professor Sue Richards