Great NHS gamble: Do Northamptonshire's jargon-laden plans mask GP practice mergers?

Health bosses will need to make 230 million worth of cuts over the next five years - but it's long-term plans appear to mask job losses and mergers.
Health bosses will need to make 230 million worth of cuts over the next five years - but it's long-term plans appear to mask job losses and mergers.

Plans to find £230 million worth of cuts in Northamptonshire's NHS services over the next five years could be "hiding" job losses and mergers with management jargon - fears a political group.

The Northamptonshire Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) released on December 7, set out a vision for the way heath services will be delivered by 2021 amid increasing budget pressures.

The NHS will need to find 22 billion worth of savings by 2021 in what major health leaders have told Johnston Press, will be the biggest shake-up of services for a generation.

The NHS will need to find 22 billion worth of savings by 2021 in what major health leaders have told Johnston Press, will be the biggest shake-up of services for a generation.

But the Green Party for Northamptonshire believes the jargon-filled plans were written in such a way as to hide cutbacks.

Furthermore the STP document states some key information is hidden in appendices - none of which is publicly available.

Secretary of the county's Green Party, Steve Miller, said “The health service supports many local jobs, but the STP appears to be hiding job losses by use of management jargon.

"Does 'joining GP practices” actually mean “closing GP practices”?

"We are concerned that the move to use more resources from the voluntary sector is actually a move to prop up a service using more free labour?”

Health chiefs are now coming under increasing pressure to reveal a full business case for their plans and open them up to public consultation.

The Northamptonshire Green Party are worried about the effects the plans will have on the lives of county’s patients.

The party's local health spokesman Scott Mabbutt, has called on the signatories of the STP to make clear their plans and initiate a proper 12-week consultation.

He said: "What services will each site be losing? Will there be job cuts? Have patient advocacy groups had an adequate say in this?"

Northamptonshire has an ageing population and higher than national average rates of smoking and obesity. The county has been tasked with saving up to £230million pounds over the next five years, by moving towards a "preventative model of care.

But the Green Party also has some reservations about plans to centralise specialist treatments.

Mr Miller, said: 'We welcome a 'whole person approach' with improved speed of hospital discharge, community-based care and improved mental health service access. However, we are concerned that many of the plans actually amount to cutting services.

"Plans are to move many specialities such as dermatology, rheumatology and musculoskeletal services to a single hospital site, with similar possible plans for up to seven other specialist services. This may hamper accessibility and have an environmental impact as people are required to travel long distances to access care.

"The people of Northamptonshire deserve a first class health service, not a cut-price health service and we worry the STP will lead to the latter."

A spokeswoman for Nene Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "Our STP plan focuses on providing services better tailored to meet people’s needs and operating more proactively in the community, it’s not about fewer services. We know that people respond to care best and are more likely to thrive when they are at home. We also know that there is currently an over-reliance on hospital-based care.

"We want to change the current healthcare pathways so that care is delivered in locations and ways that will benefit patients more and are financial sustainable."

The spokeswoman went on to say, a full "formal" consultation will have to take place in the future.

She said: "We will continue to keep our population informed about what opportunities there will be to engage with and shape the plan and the way it is delivered as and when the plan develops further. It is important to stress that any major changes to services would have to go through formal consultation before they could happen.”