Good news for a change. Councillor Vi Dempster, the chair of Leicester City Council’s Health Scrutiny Commission, has publicly demanded that we “bin” NHS England’s misnamed Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP). Speaking to a motion at the last full Council meeting (on March 16), Councillor Dempster said:
“In my opinion, what we need to do as a country is bin the STP’s. Let’s not waste any more time drivelling through 200 pages of rubbish, because the problem is very clear and so is the solution: improve adult social care, invest in the workforce, reinstate the money to local authorities and to public health, reinstate the grants for people who want to train to be nurses.”
Councillor Paul Westley followed on by stating: “I wholeheartedly agree with exactly what Councillor Vi Dempster just said, [the STP] is a document of no substance.” It is not for nothing that health campaigner’s say that Slash, Trash, and Privatise is the real goal of STPs.
Deputy City Mayor Rory Palmer however seemed displeased with Councillor Dempster’s determined opposition to the local STP – a Plan which proposes to slash hundreds of millions of pounds from the local health services budget with devastating consequences.
During his own contribution, Deputy Palmer thus felt the need to emphasise that Labour-led Councils could do nothing to block the roll-out of the STPs, stating “This Council has no formal power of veto over these plans.”
But this is patent nonsense: the city’s Labour councillors do have the power to refuse to sign off on the STPs and, if they so desired, to simultaneously work to build a mass campaign to oppose all planned attacks on our NHS. With this in mind we should be hopeful that Councillor Dempster will now take a determined lead on ensuring that our city council now rejects the entire STP.
Despite his misgivings, even Deputy Palmer admits that the NHS is facing an existential crisis, and he was quick to acknowledge that the entire process through which the STPs have been pushed out has been undemocratic from the start. He surmised:
“There is no question that the brand of STP’s was almost toxic before they had even started, before they had even got off the ground. The idea that NHS England could compel local areas not to publish plans, to keep things secret, to deliberately prevent active scrutiny and examination of those plans is just absurd, and led to a complete lack of confidence before the process had even started.”
So when the toxic nature of NHS England’s “consultation” is considered alongside the nonsensical content our local STP — criticisms that have already been ably outlined by Dr Sally Ruane in her recent report – then it seems like a no-brainer that our councillors will act to reject the STP, but they may still need a little encouraging.
Fortunately on Wednesday March 29, the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Commission has arranged a special meeting to discuss their position on the STPs. So make sure you get along and make your voice heard, and remind our Labour councillors what Leicester needs and expects them to do on our behalf! (The meeting starts at 5:30 pm at City Hall on Charles Street.)
Also, why not email Councillor Vi Dempster to check whether she is still planning to reject/bin the Sustainability and Transformation Plan — firstname.lastname@example.org
Details of the Council’s STP Council Motion
The STP Council motion that was passed at the March 16 full Council meeting, noted among other things that the STP proposed “to remove a significant number of hospital beds out of the local hospital system when we are seeing day-to-day full capacity and demand for current bed provision”. They highlight “The projected financial gap in local NHS budgets of £399 million by 2021” and “lack of meaningful financial detail published to date regarding LLR STP proposals”. They conclude that the Council “resolves, through the Executive and Health Scrutiny Commission” to amongst other things: “challenge and oppose specific STP proposals where this Council believes – through its assessment of evidence and conclusions of its scrutiny of proposals – that the quality, safety and sustainability of care available to Leicester residents will be put at risk”.