Southend Council on Verge of Rejecting STP


It appeared that some Councillors at last night’s meeting of Southend Council People Scrutiny Committee (30/1/18) hadn’t realised that they’d voted to give up their powers to scrutinise the STP a few months ago and delegated this duty to a Joint Committee with Essex County Council and Thurrock Council

The option placed before them was to either support or reject Southend Council’s Cabinet recommendations on the STP. The Cabinet had plumped for Option B – meaning that they wanted some pretty serious questions, satisfactorily answered by the STP, before the end of the public consultation on 9th March before they would support these hastily cobbled together plans.

The Council’s Cabinet is unhappy that the Hyper Acute Stroke Unit (HASU) would be based in Basildon when we have an award-winning department in Southend. It calls the proposals for acute reconfiguration and associated investment plans ‘weak’. Plans for transferring 25 or more seriously ill patients per day between hospitals are described as ‘unclear and poorly defined’ and it has ‘significant concerns’ about details of Adult Social Care.

There were also questions about the vagueness of proposed investment plans, the funding for which is by no means guaranteed, and what the STP intended to do with the feedback it is collecting on the proposals.

The fact that these plans from the STP have been put out to public consultation with so many huge question marks hanging over the proposals is, quite frankly, incredible.

Many more concerns were raised by members of the committee at the meeting including:

    What guarantees do we have that all the planned free transport for out-patients and visitors between hospitals would continue long-term?

    Had the staff been consulted to make sure that these new plans could be fully staffed and not huge numbers of vacancies as is now the case?

    And the massive elephant in the room – how on earth are you going to treat patients with multiple problems, as many do? An elderly person who has a stroke may well fracture their hip and suffer renal failure – these specialities will be spread out across hospitals – the patient won’t be able to be treated at one hospital!

Many members complained about the lack of clear clinical evidence for the STP’s assertions, however the Executive Councillor for Health and Social Care, Lesley Salter, stated that it wasn’t within Councillors’ and residents’ ability to critically analyse data of this kind, which many I’m sure will find extremely condescending.

All this is even before primary care is considered and questions are raised about broad assumptions and optimistic forecasts from the STP.

As the SBC Scrutiny Committee is now effectively impotent with regard to making recommendations on the STP, the only other recourse open to it was to refer the matter up to Full Council for consideration on 22nd February, where these additional problems could be looked at.

How the STP are going to come up with solutions to all this gaping holes and defects in the next five weeks, given the fact it’s taken them around two years to come up with this shambolic offering, is beyond mortal comprehension.

The only possible answer that Southend Borough Council can give, if it really does have the well-being of the town’s residents at heart, is to say that it rejects these proposals, their methods of preparation and consultation, and refer the whole thing back to the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt.

(Thurrock Council wisely objected to the additional bureaucracy and erosion of democracy associated with the formation of a Joint Scrutiny Committee of the three councils & declined to give in to pressure to join this committee for several months. Sadly they seem to have finally capitulated, Hopefully, at some point, a Judicial Review will test the veracity of the Government’s interpretation of the law – it wouldn’t be the first time they’d overstepped the mark!).

See the full report of the Deputy Chief Exec to Cabinet below:

STP Council Report

I asked a couple of question to Cllr Lesley Salter, firstly to try and get a clear idea of the Conservatives perspective on the STP and secondly to try and establish if Cllr Salter believes the formation of a Joint Scrutiny Committee was really necessary as the STP has no legal status. Cllr Salter decided to move the goalposts and say the Joint Committee was set up to deal with the CCGs, which are not the STP.

Question from Mr Fieldhouse to the Executive Councillor for Health
& Adult Social Care

“Council officers have identified many inadequacies and omissions of
detail in the Mid & South Essex STP’s plans, including investment
proposals for the reconfiguration of acute hospital services that are
described as ‘weak’, and the provisions for transferring seriously ill
patients between hospitals as ‘unclear and poorly defined’ – both of
which are central tenets to the plans’ operation. Additionally, three of the
five CCG’s GP chairs, at a meeting of the Joint STP CCG Committee in
late November, chose not to vote in favour of the plans’ progression to
public consultation in their current form. Does the relevant portfolio
holder believe that the STP’s proposals were developed sufficiently to be
put out to public consultation or does she think the consultation should
be halted and not restarted until competent plans have been drawn up
from which meaningful responses from the public can be gathered?”

As the Executive Councillor for Health and Adult Social Care I welcome
the opportunity to participate in public consultation with regards to the
STP. As evidenced in the Cabinet paper we, as a Council, have
conducted a rigorous review of the STP proposals and my findings are
clearly laid out. I propose that the plans for Stroke, Primary Care /
development of Localities and Transport in addition to a number of other
issues are further clarified by the STP.
My report acknowledges the status of the proposals but I equally
acknowledge the opportunity to consult and further inform the proposals
– this is what public consultation is all about. I believe that we must
engage with this process to contribute to finding the best outcomes for
our residents.
Question from Mr Fieldhouse to the Executive Councillor for Health
& Adult Social Care

“With reference to 8.3 in the Officer’s report, does the relevant portfolio
holder consider the Mid & South Essex Sustainability & Transformation
Partnership to be a statutory NHS body even though the STP has no
legal underpinning in statute and is not publicly accountable?”
The officer’s report does not make reference to the Sustainability and
Transformation Partnership (STP) as a statutory NHS Body. The NHS
bodies which are consulting on the STP proposals are the five NHS
Clinical Commissioning Groups in mid and south Essex, which are
statutory bodies, through their Joint Committe

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