After a weekend of activity, the future of Health and Social Care in Derbyshire still appears to be shrouded in secrecy and ambiguity.
A packed meeting at the Strutts Centre on Friday October 7th was addressed by Pauline Latham MP, Tracy Allen from South Derbyshire CCG and NHS campaigner Peter Gillard from Shropshire.
The Sustainability and Transformation Plan, which will override the decision making procedures of local commissioning groups, appears to be focused on cuts of £22 bn in Health and Social Care between now and 2020.
For us in Derbyshire this represents a loss of £240m in healthcare and £140m in social care. Hospitals and wards across the county are already earmarked for closure.
Whilst Mrs Latham seemed eager to minimise the impact on local communities, Tracy Allen was at least more open about the effects and how this might be addressed. Peter Gillard, meanwhile, outlined how campaigning in Shropshire had begun to build a widely based movement against ward closures and loss of services which has actually achieved some gains.
On Saturday, the campaign to join up resistance groups across the county actually did join up for one of those magical moments. The long march from Belper to Matlock coincided with the arrival of the motorcade from Bolsover and Clay Cross with both parties converging on the bridge, before a noisy and enthusiastic climb towards County Hall (perched halfway up a hill which seems to get steeper every time I attempt it). Coincidence or a sign from the gods?
The meeting itself addressed the threats faced by Health and Social Care across the county with short, but telling, speeches from Andy Botham, Chris Wilkinson and Peter Gillard.
But where do we go from here?
The few draft STP plans already submitted for consultation appear to acknowledge widespread public opposition to the closures of community hospitals and A & E departments with further concern about how private, run for profit businesses will snap up the services in a fragmented health and care system.
In Derbyshire, however, we appear to be further than ever from any transparency in the future of our NHS. Last November’s tentative pre-consultations have been superseded by the division of the NHS into 44 footprints further undermining local consultation and accountability. Gary Thompson, senior officer responsible for Derbyshire STP has acknowledged that the need for background analysis begins anew whilst offering some commitment that Babington Hospital will not close before a replacement facility is in place to which services can be relocated in the town. This however still falls short of guaranteeing the survival of our community hospital with the retention of its specialist re-hab ward.
On a positive note, activity across the county has laid the foundations for a fully joined up campaign to preserve services publicly funded and free at the point of treatment.
The next Clinical Commissioning Group meets next Friday October 28th at Derby Arena where members of KONP (Keep our National Health Service Public) will lobby the meeting before attending and posing questions. As Peter Gillard pointed out, a large attendance at such meetings conveys a powerful message of public support from our NHS while keeping us fully informed.
Join us there at 10.00 am.