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NHA Party responds to the proposed Sustainability and Transformation plans in South West London

Yesterday in parliament, there was a debate on the NHS' Sustainability and Transformation Plans. The cuts to services in South West London were discussed. Our parliamentary candidate, Dave Ash, stood in the general election on a platform saying that these cuts had already been marked out for the area.

A National Health Action Party spokesman said,

The Sustainability and Transformation Plan programme was launched in December 2015. It is based on work which has being going on at different levels across the country under such names as 'Fit for the Future' or 'Healthier Together'. In South West London it was 'Better Services, Better Value'. It is hard to find anything fit, healthier or better in any of them. The STPs continue those proposals or are even more savage in their service reductions.

These plans all share the same approach: they say there is a growing and ageing population with complex needs and growing inequalities of health which needs better healthcare provision. We already have a lack of mental health, public health and community provision. Our A&Es no longer have a mid-winter crisis, they have a year round crisis. There is a shortage of doctors and nurses. The STPs are claiming they will wave a magic wand and will make these problems disappear by reducing the number of hospitals, GPs and other services.

Hospital trusts, which have a lack of funds from government, can now earn up to half of their income from private sources. None have reached that yet, but South West London's Royal Marsden tops the list with over a quarter of its income not from the NHS. It is shocking to see what used to be our NHS hospitals advertising their own 'NHS' private companies offering private treatments. But what is worse, with the shortage of doctors and nurses, the staff being recruited to run these services are being taken from the same pool that should be filling our NHS vacancies. Private hospitals and private service within the hospitals both draining the talent away from our NHS.

That's the background to the STPs.

The STPs rely on reducing the number of A&Es, selling 'surplus' land and assets to fund the cost of implementing the cuts, and changing the skills mix of NHS staff. In this 'new' NHS it will no longer be standard to see a doctor.

In 2013 we had 140 full A&E hospitals in England. When the STPs are complete there will only be between 40 and 70 left. With 44 footprints you can see why the number of hospitals in South West London are being reduced. In fact a footprint with more than two A&Es will be rare.

According to the STPs, to make the NHS affordable and sustainable we, the public, must get used to longer ambulance journeys for emergency care, longer waiting times for treatment and the possibility of paying extra to be seen by a doctor or for treatments that have been removed from the free at the point of need NHS. Instead that magic wand comes back to make us all so healthy that we will no longer need services or hospital beds. Or if we do need a bed it will be there for us 'in our own home'.

This dismantling emphasises 'out of hospital care' using technology to replace face-to-face contact and moving people out of hospitals into community care. But funding for social care and public health have both been savagely cut and the hospital provision is being removed before anything new is in place to deal with the fall-out.

As leader of the NHA I keep thinking I can't be any more shocked and angry than I am, but this is the end of the NHS as a comprehensive, universal and accessible service. Private hospitals are springing up in the space created by the downgrading and demolition of NHS hospitals and other facilities. NHS treatments are being removed from 'free at the point of need', creating a public provision within a private industry, much the way dentistry works.

This has all been created on the back of lies. As populations grow and people live longer because they are healthier, the NHS should have grown with them, but we are told that costs too much. We are the sixth richest nation in the world and we manage to run our health service on a much lower budget than most other developed nations, but we are told that is unaffordable. Even a low budget will always be seen as too much by those who believe that the rich should have what they can pay for and the poor should put up with what they are given. That's the opposite of the values of the NHS. And to add insult to injury this package of cuts which will end those essential values is sold to us as 'better'.

The people of South West London have an excellent local campaign group, Keep Our St Helier Hospital, centred around St Helier Hospital. We recommend that people start to demand to see the STP  plans, understand what they really mean and start fighting now to keep their services."

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