Sheffield activists to take action against impending 'disastrous reorganisation' of NHS services

Activists from Sheffield’s ‘Save Our NHS’ group are organising to take action against a ‘disastrous’ Government bill that could see private firms represented on bodies responsible for giving out contracts, while ‘doing nothing’ to tackle the funding and staffing crisis.

Monday, 11th October 2021, 3:02 pm

The Government’s Health and Care Bill proposes the break up of the NHS in England into 42 ‘Integrated Care Systems’ – something which Sheffield campaigners warn has already happened in South Yorkshire and has proven unsuccessful.

The Bill also gives powers to the Secretary of State to override agreements regarding NHS services reached at local level.

Mick Suter, chairman Sheffield Save Our NHS (SSONHS), said: “In Sheffield, we have already experienced what the future will be like. Six years ago, we were a pilot area for the original Sustainability and Transformation Partnership and then its successor the Accountable Care System.

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Sheffield Save Our NHS

“For the last three years, we have been landed with the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System. Even though it has currently no legal status, it has been forging ahead even commissioning some projects with national money.

“The limited powers that Sheffield Council currently has over the local NHS through its scrutiny committee could be threatened. The threat to use these powers, under pressure of a mass campaign which SSONHS led, was for example instrumental in preventing the closures of the Minor Injuries Unit and the Walk-in Centre. These bureaucratic changes do nothing to solve the real problems of the NHS.”

The Government has pushed the Bill on the basis that it would bring an end to competitive tendering. However, SSONHS argues that rather than slowing any privatisation of the NHS it would speed it up.

The group says the Bill will make permanent the system introduced as an emergency under the pandemic, whereby the Department of Health handed out billions of contracts directly to private companies without any competition or proper scrutiny.

Furthermore, SSONHS claims the structure of the Integrated Care Systems will mean that private companies may be represented on the bodies handing out contracts to private companies.

Jeremy Short, spokesperson for SSONHS said: “The reorganisation could remove decision-making even further away from any local democratic accountability at the same time as opening the door for further privatisation and bigger profits for private companies who have already made billions out of the Covid-19 crisis.

“At the same time, staff may face the destruction of national terms and conditions. The Bill will do nothing to solve the real problems of the NHS – lack of resources and staff.”

A nurse member of SSONHS added: “The breaking up of the NHS into 42 Integrated Care Systems threatens the national pay and conditions structure we currently have.

“This will do nothing to increase staff numbers, improve pay and conditions and relieve the stress of staff caused not just by the pandemic but by years of under-funding.

“The stress caused by this unnecessary reorganisation on top of everything else will impact on the mental health of even more nurses, support staff and doctors.”

In a bid to organise activists to make a stand against the proposals, Sheffield Save Our NHS is holding an online public meeting on Wednesday, October 13 at 7pm to explain and mobilise against the Bill.