Remember all those glossy booklets promoting ‘joined up care’ that seemed to be prominently displayed everywhere in the run up to Christmas 2015? A vision of a health service seemingly tailored to each and everybody’s needs and right there on your doorstep? The underlying reality however seemed to promise something very different and with word of the proposed closure of Babington Hospital circulating, the campaign to save Babington was launched last October.
Two things became clear: firstly that Belper was resolved to keep its community hospital with the results of the online and hard copy petitions delivered to South Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group. Secondly, the promised consultation scheduled for January and then July never materialised.
So what really happened ?
Well, something called the Sustainability and Transformation Plan in which the health service was to be divided into 44 ‘footprints’ with CCGs and local authorities obliged to submit organisational and financial reforms by July. In fact few such plans – seemingly impossible to deliver without savage cuts to services – have actually been delivered although the obligation to consult the public is still there.
In the case of Derbyshire, this will probably mean cuts of £400 million pounds to be delivered by 2020 and at the same time, we became aware in April that community hospitals nationwide from Brixham in South Devon to Holmfirth in West Yorkshire were similarly under threat.
And then the bombshell dropped with the planned closures of community hospitals in Bakewell, Bolsover and Buxton. Wrapped in secrecy, whilst seemingly committed to public consultation, the threat to close community hospitals also hinted at an obligation for commissioning groups to favour private providers. Let us not forget the case of Hinchenbrook Hospital. Widely lauded as a shining beacon of how private provision could transform our NHS, it soon became apparent that the hospital was failing patients on almost every level. The private providers pulled out leaving the taxpayer to pick up the tab.
The lesson from this and other examples of private provision seems to be simple. Pay twice for a less efficient service.
Out of this arose the need for campaigning to join up and challenge the fragmentation and increasing privatisation of our Health Service. A national group, Health Campaigns Together’ organised its first conference in Birmingham on September 17th with feedback on the threats posed to a publicly funded NHS and the genesis of a fightback against STP.
Last Saturday a rally in Matlock delivered a petition with 8000 signatures to protest against the closure of a recently refurbished ward in the area and next Saturday, October 8th, sees the campaign joining up across the county. Converging on County Hall Matlock, walks will leave Belper Market Place at 10.00am and Bakewell Town Centre at 10.30 for a 3.00pm rally in Matlock. Motor cavalcades will also be leaving Buxton and Bolsover.
Please join us if you can. However, if the prospect of a 10 mile stroll isn’t your idea of the perfect Saturday, feel free to make your way to Matlock and join the rally.
The real consultation begins here!