NHS Cuts 'Planned Across England' In Funding Crisis

Many Hospitals Will be Merged To Make Efficiency Savings – But Leave Little Room For Public Scrutiny


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Medical negligence experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell say NHS services will be put under even more strain after the BBC reports that they have seen plans that could see NHS services cut in England. 

The BBC says that they have seen draft sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) which propose NHS cuts in 44 areas including, ward closures, cuts in bed numbers and changes to A&E and GP care. 

No consultations over the plans have been carried out, but it is estimated that this will come in October of this year.

NHS England said that reorganising local services is essential to improving care, after it was revealed that it needs to find £22 billion in savings by 2020-21. 

The BBC report comes only a few hours after services for under-18s were suspended at Stafford’s County Hospital, after University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust said the closure was due to a lack of ‘professionally trained and experienced staff.”

The Nuffield Trust think tank criticised the STPs and said that while they could lead to “fundamental changes,” many of the plans don’t meet financial targets. 

The STPs have also received criticism by campaigners such as group 38 Degrees who have said the plans haven’t been “transparent” up until now. The group uncovered many of the unreported STPs, but out of 44 plans, many remain unpublished. 

The plans were drawn together by local health and social care leaders after being asked to find potential savings to meet financial targets set out by the former Chancellor George Osborne and NHS England head, Simon Stevens. 

Some STP plans include the closure of Midland Metropolitan Hospitals A&E department, merging two of the area’s three district hospitals and the closure of one site. Leicestershire and Rutland are to merge services reducing three acute hospital sites to two. 

A plan amongst managers in West Yorkshire reveals proposals to close the equivalent of five wards in the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. 

Head of Nuffield Trust, Nigel Edwards, said that large numbers of patients may be moved to community settings, while in others – up to 20% of beds may be closed. And the number of mental health inpatient sites could be reduced. 

Sara Burns, medical negligence expert at Irwin Mitchell, said: 
Expert Opinion
“Patients will be let down by the NHS’s drastic and sudden attempt to save money and become more efficient. These plans were likely to come after the ex-Chancellors budget announcement of saving £22 billion, but have been very much under wraps and hidden from public scrutiny, and even now, not all plans have been revealed.

“These closures will let patients down and may leave some not being able to access local emergency care at a time when they vitally need it. The merging of services and closures will force patients to attend other hospitals, most likely further from their homes, which will put a further strain on these hospital resources and will delay patient’s receiving the care they need. In the case of Stafford Hospital – parents will have to take their children to hospitals such as Stoke on Trent and Wolverhampton.

“Sadly we see a number of cases where any delay in the treatment of time critical illnesses such as meningitis can make a significant difference to the outcome. NHS England needs to be clear and consistent with their budget planning and must ensure patient care is a priority.”
Sara Burns, Partner