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‘£61m NHS cuts? We can’t do it’

‘Transformation’ scheme officials say they can’t meet government savings target

27 July, 2017 — By Tom Foot

A recent protest by the Keep Our NHS Public group outside University College Hospital

HEALTH chiefs in charge of the controversial Sustainability Transformation Plan (STP) have told the government they cannot implement anymore cutbacks.

At Camden’s health scrutiny meeting last Tuesday, it was revealed that the officials working on NCL (North Central London) STP in north London will not be able to meet a £61million savings target they had been set for 2017/2018.

The STP is a group of NHS trusts, GP leaders and council social care chiefs in five boroughs, including Camden and Islington, who have come together to draw up a cost-cutting plan for the next five years.

Failing to meet the target, set by NHS England, which controls the NHS purse strings nationally, means each of the boroughs will have tens of millions of funding withheld.

Cllr Alison Kelly, health scrutiny chief at Camden Council, said the situation showed the “impossible financial situation in which health finds itself in our area”.

She added: “The view of the partnership is they cannot deliver the £61m. They are not saying, ‘we will find a way of doing it’, they are saying to the government, ‘we cannot do it’.”

STPs have been set up across the country as part of a major drive by the government to cut NHS spending.

Officials told the meeting that, so far, their work on the STP had been about “spreading good practice faster” and “an opportunity to do things more efficiently across the piece”.

A 250-page report presented to the committee said the health and social care service should in the future focus on “self management” and with care moving “closer to home”, ie out of expensive-to-run hospitals.

Officials at the meeting surpassed themselves when it came to talking in jargon and using dense management phrases.

They told the committee about the STP’s “spirit of engagement and co-production into the future”, how they aimed to be “spreading good practice faster and faster” while raising concerns about the “principle of subsidiary”.

Critics of STPs say they are simply a programme of huge cuts designed to reduce a large and increasing deficit – estimated to rise to around £900m by 2022 – across the five north London boroughs.

Cllr Kelly told the meeting it was important to have reports that “ordinary mortals could understand”, adding: “There is a gap of £61m that the government is asking NCL STP to deliver on. The NCL STP, the partnership, is saying there is no way they can deliver on that £61million.

“What that does is, that it puts at jeopardy extra money that NCL could have access to. This shows the impossible financial situation in which health finds itself in our area.”

Will Huxter, director of strategy at NCL, told the meeting: “We are still facing substantial financial challenges. Our plan for this year does not deliver financial balance.

“We are still working on the plans we are submitting. We are in discussions with regulators, but there is a recognition we won’t achieve financial balance this year.

“We have people spending longer in hospital than they need to, those who don’t need to go. The vision is that for those that require hospital care, that is done in the most efficient way possible.”

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