Attempts to find hundreds of millions of pounds in savings from NHS organisations in Yorkshire are dragging services back to the 1960s, an MP has warned.
The Government is instigating a radical shake-up of services, aimed at accelerating an NHS efficiency plan to improve healthcare while also curbing a massive overspend by the introduction of so-called Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).
But Bassetlaw MP John Mann told Parliament that a STP for South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw designed to meet a £571m budget black hole for the area’s NHS and social care organisations in the next four years is a “smokescreen for cuts”.
He said the effects of finding savings are already having a major impact – with new mothers told to weigh their own babies, weeks of delays in getting breast cancer screening and the planned downgrading of a children’s unit leaving parents facing the prospect of 80-mile round trips to take their poorly children to hospital for overnight stays.
Mr Mann said most people “know nothing” of the 44 STPs which are being implemented across the country to help meet a £22bn funding gap facing the NHS by 2020/2021, adding: “That consultation is not reaching people – unlike their implications, including the cuts that they are disguising, which are reaching more and more people.”
As part of the South Yorkshire STP plan, consultations are currently taking place on stopping providing some children’s operations in Barnsley, Chesterfield and Rotherham, as well as on Barnsley and Rotherham hospitals no longer providing hyper acute care for people who have had a stroke.
Health services in West Yorkshire and Harrogate face a £1bn funding gap, while in North Yorkshire fears have been raised that the potential downgrading of some services at Darlington Memorial Hospital could see patients in some of Yorkshire’s most rural communities facing the prospect of travelling 60 miles to Middlesbrough for critical care.
Mr Mann said service changes are already having a impact, particular in relation to overnight stays for children at other regional hospitals.
He added: “We are aware of the massive black holes in some of the health trusts and that not enough money is being put in. We are also aware of the additional cuts, with the latest one being the cutting of health visitors in Bassetlaw.
“Mothers have been told in the last week they have to weigh their own baby. There have been eye tests in schools since the inception of the NHS – stopped in the last week. Height tests in school – stopped in the last week. Those are major and significant cuts, and they are going to have to be reversed.
“Those changes are old-fashioned, unimaginative and consultant-focused. It is a 1960s solution to the health service.”
Health Minister Philip Dunne said a final decision on stopping the overnight children’s unit service in Bassetlaw, with patients instead having to go to Doncaster or Sheffield, will be made in October. But he said the overnight service has already been stopped on “safety grounds” due to a lack of staff – a decision “unrelated” to the wider STP plans.
Mr Dunne added: “For all STPs, there will be no changes to the services that people currently receive without local engagement. If plans propose service changes, formal consultation will follow. All service changes should be based on clear evidence that they will deliver better outcomes for patients.”