Unite said that the 44 Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) for England heralded yet another reconfiguration of the NHS which could see closures or relocations of local hospitals and A&E departments.
Unite, with 100,000 members in the health service, has branded the STPs as ‘Slash, Trash and Privatise.’
The STPs are being driven by NHS England with the aim of improving services by looking at them ‘in the round’ – but the union said that they will mean extensive cuts to services as the health service struggles to implement £20bn of so-called ‘efficiency’ savings.
The 44 STP ‘footprints’ for the disparate geographical areas each have their own plans, which had been prepared by mainly local NHS apparatchiks with no public involvement, and had to be submitted to NHS England by 21 October which will then decide when the individual STPs can be publicised.
The limited public consultation process is due to start in January 2017, with implementation expected later next year.
Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said: “What we have here is another attempt to reorganise the NHS by stealth in the name of improved services.
“But we suspect, given the enormous financial crisis facing the NHS, that STPs are a device to further cut services, erode patient care, and introduce local pay and employment conditions. The spectre of further privatisation also lurks in the background.
“This is a wake-up call for local councils, politicians and the public to make to their voice heard – I doubt whether one person in a thousand knows what a STP is. It appears that the lessons of Andrew Lansley’s botched reforms have not been learnt.
“What the NHS needs are not more secretive ‘reforms’, but a massive injection of ‘new’ money when chancellor Philip Hammond ‘resets’ the economy in his autumn statement on 23 November.
“We also need more openness about STPs as they appear, under the mantle of improved services, to mask a culture of cuts.
“Unite will be writing to all councils to ask them to publish the STPs for their respective areas as a matter of priority and not sign them off without full consultation with staff, the trade unions and the public.”