Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 23rd November 2016

Recently I’ve received considerable numbers of emails about the NHS and its local ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plan’ or STP. Like every organisation, our National Health Service has to evolve to meet the challenges of the future and the Sussex and East Surrey STP will set out what that means for service-users in Crawley.

In their emails, residents raised concerns that the STP simply amounts to a plan for cuts and privatisation as the NHS struggles to meet the cost of an ageing population, a situation made more challenging by increasing social care cuts by county councils. Consequently, they ask me to publish the Sussex and East Surrey and oppose its recommendations.

Despite my efforts, I have not seen a copy of our local STP and it would be wrong to prejudge the plans before we’ve had the opportunity to read through them. Yet, the lack of engagement, firstly with the patients and residents who depend upon our local NHS and secondly with organisations which play a frontline role in dealing with various health related issues, such as borough councils, is a grave cause for concern.

This raises several important questions, firstly: if the decisions being taken over our local health services are likely to prove uncontroversial with residents then why keep them hidden, and if they are likely to prove controversial then surely It’s wrong for such a plan to be put in place without wider public consultation?

The second relates to the reason STPs are being put produced on the local level instead of the national level: so that they will reflect the unique demands of each area. Without consulting service-users and all agencies involved in providing local healthcare there’s a significant risk these plans will contain major gaps in provision.

Our NHS belongs to the people, it’s paid for from our taxes and forms part of our inheritance from the Greatest Generation. Clearly the organisation has to change with the times, yet we deserve the chance to have our say on the future of our services. The NHS must start involving the public in putting together the STPs.

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