NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans September 2016
Thank you for contacting me recently regarding NHS finances [and the related campaign by 38 Degrees]. Like you, I care deeply about our National Health Service. It is one of our great national institutions, which is there for us all when we need it most, and must be defended.
I am aware of the recent investigation by 38 Degrees and the related report by Incisive Health into NHS England's proposed 'Sustainability and Transformation Plans' (STPs). I am concerned at the report's findings that proposed cost-saving measures include the closure or downgrading of some A&E units and reductions in the number of hospital beds. I believe the analysis in Incisive Health's report is a damning indictment of the Government's underfunding and mismanagement of the NHS. Emergency closures of vital units across the country testify to a real crisis. The Government has outlined plans to make £22 billion worth of efficiency savings in the NHS by 2020/21. I am concerned the only way the Government will achieve these savings will be by cutting staff and pay and closing essential services.
Health spending rose at a historically low rate of 1.1% in real terms between 2009-10 and 2015-16. In comparison - the independent Health Charity, the Nuffield Trust - has noted that under the previous Labour Government, health expenditure growth increased at an average rate of approximately 6% per year between 1997 and 2009. The current Government has cut public health funding and health education budgets and has consistently underfunded social care. The human costs of the NHS's financial problems are longer waits and poorer care, with hospitals overcrowded and understaffed.
While there is a case for bringing health and social care stakeholders together to improve planning and coordination, I am concerned that the proposed STPs could have devastating consequences for frontline services. There is real concern that these plans will be used to force through cuts and close hospitals, and will make it harder for patients to access face-to-face consultations with their GPs, and will also open the door to more privatisation. I believe the process for STPs lacks transparency and the timeline is insufficient to allow for adequate public or Parliamentary engagement in their formulation, or to finalise such a major restructure of the NHS. I am concerned they have been formed in secret in order to hide enormous damage to the NHS and I believe the Government should close NHS deficits with funds - not more cuts - and scrap the STPs if they cannot demonstrate real improvements.
My colleagues in the Shadow Health Team recently secured an Opposition Day debate on this issue. The debate took place in the House of Commons on 14 September 2016. Unfortunately the Government voted down the motion calling for it to publish its STP plans and provide an adequate consultation period to public and practitioners.
The Government has confirmed that the STP plans will be subject to local consultation. I can assure you that I will follow developments closely and continue to hold the Government to account on this important issue. I will also continue to stand up for the NHS and oppose all damaging cuts. Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views.