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23.12.16

Gloucestershire STP ‘riven with holes’, warn campaigners

Gloucestershire NHS campaigners have claimed that crucial financial information about the county’s STP is being kept secret from the public and councillors, urging elected officials to reject the plan if key figures and projections are not revealed.

The STP, published by Gloucestershire CCG in November, set out the CCG’s strategy to reduce costs and improve care in Gloucestershire while attempting to tackle the county’s £226m deficit.

In an open letter to all county councillors, Stroud Against The Cuts (SATC) called the plan’s budgets “riven with holes”, warning that the CCG’s plans provide no information on projected changes to staff levels, bed numbers, sales of assets or trust deficits, and demanded greater transparency on how changes will affect services in Gloucestershire.

 “We note with deep concern that the plan contains no guarantee that current levels of hospital provision will be protected. We further note with deep concern that assumptions are made throughout the plan that may well undermine the provision of hospital and other NHS care in Gloucestershire in future,” said the letter, signed by SATC’s chair James Beecher and co-ordinator Caroline Molloy.

“Given the lack of guarantees about estates and workforce, the suspicion must be that these holes [in the capital budget] will be filled with further cuts and sell offs of our much loved and vital hospitals, and greater reliance on private patients.”

Beecher and Molloy accused Gloucestershire CCG of holding more detailed information on the county’s financial, operational, estates and workforce plans than the earlier publication suggested, more in line with the level of detail provided in other areas of the country.

Gloucestershire county councillors – who have not seen the CCG’s full STP – will be asked to sign off segments of the STP early next year.

The letter garnered a mixed response from the Conservative-led council, with Dorcas Binns, council cabinet member for older people, welcoming the chance to discuss the STP but insisting that the STP was “not about cuts”.

“It is a pretty good deal for Gloucestershire,” Binns said. “It sets out how our NHS can work smarter in future –more GP appointments, easier access to NHS services and improved A&E care.”

Binns added that the government has promised Gloucestershire £73m more in NHS funding over the next five years.

However, Gloucestershire council’s only Green Sarah Lunnon called the STP “a gamble with limited available evidence”, while the council’s Labour group said that it would press for a “full briefing” to be given to all county councillors as to the contents of the STP.

“It seems that the controversial topics such as detail on budget ‘savings’ and assets will not be discussed or put into the public domain until after next year’s May county council election,” Cllr Lesley Williams said on behalf of the council’s Labour group.

“We are pressing for a full briefing to be given to all county councillors on what is in the STP and to question the health bodies on the omissions.”

Dr Andy Seymour, clinical chair of NHS Gloucestershire CCG, declined to address any of the issues raised in the letter, saying: “The STP aims to build stronger, healthier communities and transform the quality of care and support we provide to local people.”

He offered assurance that “high-quality care and safety” will remain the CCG’s priority throughout the STP process.

(Image: Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, c. Tim Ireland PA Wire)

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