Letter: NHS - Bumpy ride ahead

Harrogate District Hospital exterior.  101020M1a.

Harrogate District Hospital exterior. 101020M1a.

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Under the Blair/Brown governments, health spending increased to the European average of 8.5 per cent of GDP. This has been decreased by the last two governments and the projected figure for 2021 is 6.6 per cent compared with a European average of 9.1 per cent (Germany 11 per cent).

‘Reconfiguration’ of the NHS is essential to hitting this figure, hence the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), based on geographical groups called Footprints(!), put together in secret discussions between the groups’ Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), local authorities, hospital trusts and private providers (such as Incisive Health).

Reconfiguration is a euphemism for cuts in staff, hospital beds and access to GP services and closures of A&E departments, maternity wards and hospitals. It’s the government’s bureaucratic answer to chronic underfunding.

The STP discussion forums are not statutory bodies, hence their unaccountability for any mess they may leave behind.

The government’s five years forward review (2014) called for £22bn efficiency savings by 2020 on top of £20bn savings between 2010 and 2015. This, combined with six years of austerity that limited the growth in funding to about one per cent as demand on NHS services soared, has sucked the wind out of its sails.

The Harrogate Advertiser (November 17) refers to a £1bn hole in the new West Yorkshire Footprint (Harrogate, Ripon, Leeds and Bradford) by 2021. With the current financial pressures on the NHS, the plans will be more about deficit reduction (sustainability) than sufficiently resourced transformation.

Removed from the main centres of population, Harrogate and Ripon are the most likely to see services stripped out and bumped up journey times for some patients.

And get ready for the possibility of recuperative nursing at home on top of going out to work. Like electrons in their quantum mechanical world you will be able to be in two places simultaneously.

AH Roberts

Harrogate