Secret plans to cut health services have been introduced with no Parliamentary approval and no public or professional consultation, a Banbury campaigner says.
Keith Strangwood, chairman of Keep the Horton General (KTHG) said the plan for Oxfordshire, which includes total downgrade of the Horton General Hospital, must be published now.
The Oxfordshire Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) - designed to make financial cuts of £200m by 2020/21 - has not been released yet and attempts by watchdog Healthwatch to obtain it via Freedom of Information have been refused.
Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group is obliged to sign off the document by December 23. But public consultation will not take place until January or May.
Mr Strangwood demanded the STP is released immediately and that no contract or irreversible changes are put in place before consultation is complete.
“Changes have been taking place under the guise of staff shortages and ‘safety’ concerns in departments that have always been perfectly safe,” he said.
“These removals are then being made permanent, easing the way for the eventual sledge hammer of STP to be implemented.
“The whole STP scheme is about money. It’s about the Government wanting to pay only for the service it wants to provide, rather than the service we need.
“STP is centralisation of services and the end of district hospitals with acute services. This is why our much-needed Horton has a dark cloud hovering over it.”
KTHG has been fighting removal of acute services since early summer since when full maternity, 36 stroke and acute medical beds in Oak Ward and ten trauma beds have been removed to Oxford.
“Campaign groups across the UK are joining together to send a clear message to the Government telling them they must think again,” said Mr Strangwood.
“Whatever political colour our MPs are, they and their families will need our NHS, and not the decimated one STP will leave in its wake.
“There are not enough community health services to replace lost hospital care; funding has been slashed. GP surgeries are closing. Doctors and nurses are demoralised and leaving the NHS in droves.
“This massive shake-up is being introduced with no Parliamentary approval, no public or professional consultation or engagement.
“It appears to be designed to increase NHS privatisation, involving private companies in planning, commissioning and delivering ‘new models of care’, often relying on family carers and ‘acute hospital at home’ to achieve savage cuts to budgets,” said Mr Strangwood.
He said he believes STPs presage introduction of a health care system much more like that of the USA, with services slashed and staffing much reduced.
The consequences will be damaging for quality of care with access to hospital care made more and more difficult but with unlimited access for the private sector, he said.
STPs are part of the Five Year Forward View which came out of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 which brought in compulsory competition and drastically reduced funding. It also ended the Secretary of State for Health’s responsibility for the NHS, handing that to NHS managers in the 44 ‘footprints’ or regions, each of which has devised its own STP to cut £22 billion from the NHS by 2020/21.