When we started the Save Southend NHS campaign over 18 months ago, we were told that protesting never achieved anything. Well, after many 100’s of hours, spent by 1000’s of people across Mid & South Essex, last night we achieved in persuading Southend Borough Council to refer the Mid & South Essex STP back to the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, Matthew Handcock MP. A motion proposed by the Labour Group and seconded by the Independents passed without opposition. This means all plans will be halted, pending the outcome of a top level review.
This was no mean feat, and one we are extremely pleased to have been instrumental in bringing about. However there is a caveat.
We fully support the Council’s stance on stroke services, which is to question the rationale of moving the main stroke centre to Basildon, but we believe that the plans should have been referred back on the grounds that they “would not be in the interests of the health service in its (Southend) area” rather than on the basis that the Council was “not satisfied with the adequacy of content of the consultation”, as was the primary reason given.
It was abundantly clear that the information provided by the STP during the consultation fell well short of the mark required and, as we’ve previously stated, presentation of that limited information was given more as a ‘sales pitch’ rather than an objective portrayal of the facts. That being said, it was quite evident that the STP’s plans were clearly not in the best interests of the health needs of Southend’s residents. Under the plan, many vital services are destined to be removed from Southend Hospital and transferred to Basildon and/or Broomfield Hospital. GP practices are set to become ‘super hubs’, meaning many patients having to travel further and breaking that all important and irreplaceable personal relationship, often built up over many years, between patient and GP. Additionally, many underlying systemic and chronic problems are either inadequately addressed or virtually ignored.
It remains to be seen exactly how the case for referral back will be presented by the Council to the Secretary of State. We hope that the full gamut of not only unanswered questions, but also the myriad objections, will be raised and resolutions sought.
Ultimately we believe that the plans should be taken back to the drawing board and started afresh, this time with the population’s health truly placed at the forefront of concerns instead of creating a plan shoehorned into an arbitrary budget.
Before the vote was taken by the Full Council, I posed these questions to Cllr Lesley Salter, the cabinet minister responsible for health:
1. Back in February of this year, the Council agreed to give the STP’s proposals qualified support subject to the satisfactory conclusion of several concerns as set out in the Report of Deputy Chief Executive (People) to Cabinet On 29th January 2018 and referred to as Option B.
The five major concerns identified, on which the the Council’s support was contingent where:
1. Explanation of the rationale behind stroke reconfiguration services
2. The development of a commercial agreement between Southend Council and Southend CCG for investment in Localities.
3. Detailed proposal for transport and transfers to be published and consulted on
4. Analysis of how the discharge and repatriation process would impact on Adult Social Care.
5. That a detailed investment plan be provided by the STP showing how the £41 million earmarked for Southend Hospital would be spent.
Can the relevant portfolio holder tell me which of these five conditions have been satisfactorily met by the STP?,
2. It has been well over two years since the STP and its former incarnation, the Success Regime, first produced its plans for local NHS reorganisation. Many questions have been repeatedly asked of them and they have repeatedly failed to provide satisfactory and comprehensive answers.
Is it not time that these plans and all the Council’s unanswered questions are referred back to the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care where they can be addressed and resolved in a matter of just 20 days by an Independent Reconfiguration Panel that can cast a fresh and expert eye over the whole plan and deliver a definitive third party opinion?