Patients and staff shut out of NHS transformation plans, says thinktank

NHS plans that could lead to hospital and A&E closures have been kept secret from the public and barely involved frontline staff, a think tank has said.

NHS England has told local health leaders not to reveal the plans to the public or the media until they are finalised and have been approved by their own officials first, according to published documents and a new analysis by the King’s Fund.

The national body even told local managers to refuse applications from the media or the public to see the proposals under the Freedom of Information Act. Local managers accused NHS England of being intent on “managing the narrative” about the plans.

The sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), some of which have been published or leaked, could see some hospitals, A&E units or maternity units close, and other services merged.

The proposal for Cheshire and Mersey includes the downgrading of at least one A&E department, while in south-west London the number of acute hospitals could be cut from five to four.

In north-west London there are plans to reduce the number of sites offering a full range of services, while Birmingham and Solihull’s STP proposes a single “lead provider” for maternity care.

NHS England and some health experts say the changes will improve patient care and are necessary to fulfil the plan of the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, for full seven-day services. Opponents argue they are just a way of cutting services.

Full story in The Guardian 14 November 2016