HEALTH campaigners met in Coventry last night to ‘build a campaign’ against £270million cuts proposals for the NHS across Coventry and Warwickshire over the next five years.
Left-wingers, health professionals and others joined together to mobilise opposition to the proposals contained in the so-called Coventry & Warwickshire Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP).
The government and NHS is requiring 44 regions across the country to produce savings proposals through their own STP plans.
Successive governments have claimed there is pressure on health services from budgets, in addition to a rising and increasingly elderly population.
Campaigners from Coventry will join national protesters in London for a demo on Saturday, and met at Methodist Central Hall in Coventry city centre last night (Tuesday).
While the proposals are not finalised, there are fears accident and emergency services, maternity and children’s care facilities are under threat of closure in district hospitals across the country.
Keynote speaker at last night’s meeting was Mike Forster, the chair of the ‘Hands Off HRI’ (Huddersfield Royal Infirmary) campaign. He is involved in ‘NHS Campaigns Together’ which is organising the national demo on Saturday.
Former Coventry Labour MP Dave Nellist, now of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, is among organisers in Coventry.
He said: “Recently, the Red Cross has warned of a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in the health service. A further £270 million worth of local cuts would degrade the NHS substantially.
“Based on my experiences in the House of Commons in the 1980s, I firmly believe the government is deliberately underfunding the NHS and making unrealisable cuts demands as a softening up process for wider privatisation. NHS SOS intends to resolutely oppose that.”
Coaches to Saturday’s ‘It’s Our NHS’ demonstration in London have been organised by Coventry TUC and local unions such as Unite.
Mr Nellist says the STP poposals at this stage remain vague and unspecified.
Labour councillors at Coventry City Council – which has responsibility for adult social care and liaising with the NHS over post-hospital care and care which encourages independent living at home – have pledged to full scrutinise the proposals as they emerge.
The majority of a 5 per cent Council Tax rise in Coventry from April will go to pay for adult social care, with Labour council leaders accusing the Tory government of unfairly further financially burdening local authorities – amid £100million government grant cuts to the city council.
In November, we reported the STP proposals for University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire (UHCW), Nuneaton’s George Eliot Hospital (GEH), as well as across mental health provision and community services.
Patients admitted to hospital would be sent home early “even if they have not yet fully recovered” in order to receive care at home and relieve pressure on hospital A&E departments and wards.
Pregnant women would be encouraged to have home births with the support of newly established and expanded community hubs.
People would also be given better support to enable them to die at home rather than in hospital.
A new Acute Stroke Unit would be established at UHCW, with care at GEH and Warwick Hospital ceasing.
Stroke victims will be admitted to to the UHCW unit for initial care before being moved to rehabilitation beds at GEH and Warwick and then back home with the support of the Early Supported Discharge (ESD) team.
The STP report also places a greater emphasis on preventative care – particularly for the frail, elderly, smokers and the high-risk obese – in order to reduce attendance to hospital and A&E attendance by 21,000 people each year.
Coventry and Warwickshire’s STP Board is made up of nine organisations including hospitals, mental health and community services, local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups.
A report was submitted to NHS England in October and was drawn up consultants for Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) and led by UHCW chief executive Professor Hardy.