All hospital services in South Yorkshire are under review to identify those that are ‘unsustainable’ to try to fill a £571m financial black hole.
The future operation of four district hospitals – in Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster and Bassetlaw – is a key part of the review.
It comes as it was revealed £200m of capital investment to help deliver the Sustainability and Transformation Plan is needed in South Yorkshire as part of the drive to alter the way care is delivered and reduce hospital attendances.
Board meeting minutes seen by The Star suggests the review will seek ‘to identify any services that are unsustainable, short, medium and long-term including tertiary services’.
Tertiary services cover specialised treatment like neurosurgery, transplants and secure forensic mental health services.
In Sheffield alone, £232m of savings have to be found.
Also under consideration is splitting hospitals across the region into different ‘tiers’ – but officials say ‘no decisions have been made’ about how this will affect what services are delivered from each site.
The review will be completed by September.
The review will look at issues such as staff numbers and patient attendances while establishing what is ‘unsustainable’.
It is a key part of the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw STP – which is proposing a wholesale overhaul of care from cradle to grave to make NHS and social care services affordable in the future.
A spokeswoman for the South Yorkshire STP said while the role of district hospitals is under consideration, there is a commitment that every area of South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw will be served by a hospital.
She said: “There are four district general hospitals in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, including Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster. Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and Sheffield Children’s are considered tertiary hospitals due to the delivery of very specialist care regionally and nationally.
“The approach to classifying hospitals as district generals was developed in 1962 and based on population sizes of 125,000.
“It has therefore been 55 years since the current models of hospital services have been in place. Given the growth of the population, changed needs and advances in technology and treatments, the review – and the wider STP – will look at how better to meet local population needs.
“We’re committed to having a hospital in every place – Bassetlaw, Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield.”
The spokeswoman added: “As the review is still underway, no decisions have been made. It would not mean services are downgraded – the review is looking into what is currently being provided, where we think future provision will be more difficult and how this could be delivered in a more sustainable way by working together across the region.”
In addition to the STP proposals, consultations are taking place on potentially 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.
But Will Cleary-Gray, director of sustainability and transformation for South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, has insisted the STP plans and their attempts to meet the estimated £571m shortfall are not cutbacks.
“If services are provided in the way they are today and growth and demand continues, we do forecast a gap between the money we would need and the money we would get.
“It is going to be a different health and care system. While I accept it is a challenge, I do think it is doable. It requires the public health powers to think very differently about who we plan and provide services and how we use them.
“The STP doesn’t have very fine detail.
“The real proposals will come once we have had a conversation with the public on the basis of the plan we have published. Anything that includes changes that will affect the public will have to have the same approach we have with any change and if required, a consultation.
“There is a commitment in our STP to have a hospital in every place. What we are trying to do through the review is ensure our hospital services are equitable and safe
“It is about doing the right thing for people. It is the opportunity of a lifetime to make significant changes and make improvements that we have never really had before.”
Concerns about the proposals have been raised by local health campaigners.
Mike Simpkin, from Sheffield Save Our NHS, said: “These local hospital reviews reveal the dangers which face the NHS because of the Government’s insistence that there will be little or no additional revenue for the NHS next year or the year after leading to a huge funding gap by 2020.
“District General Hospitals are struggling because of high demand, lack of funding, the perversities of the tariff system, staff stress and shortages and, in some cases, mismanagement. To deal with this NHS chiefs propose the apparently laudable goal of equal access to quality health care across South Yorkshire but will this be a levelling down?
“They plan to provide better hospital services at the same time as taking money out of hospitals in order to shift services to the community and improve prevention even though the cost savings are unproven.”