The seven Clinical Commissioning Groups in South West London are scheduled to approve massive cuts to our local NHS this month.
The cuts and closures are part of the £11.5m Better Services Better Value cuts review, which is seeking to close down local A&E, maternity and children’s units, in order to cut the local hospitals budget by 24% by 2017. The plans are released on Friday, and are likely to recommend the gutting of services at Epsom and St Helier, which will have their A&Es torn out, plus attacks on other hospitals in SW London.
The cuts will be a disaster for Kingston Hospital, even if it’s not directly attacked. Cases from Epsom and St Helier will be re-routed to sites like Kingston, which already has A&E, maternity and children’s units working to full capacity.
Unaccountability, spin and cronyism
The new local bodies are set are to vote on the closures over the course of May. Despite government rhetoric that the CCGs are part of a new “localism” and “democracy” in the NHS which empowers local GPs, these bodies are thoroughly undemocratic. They are unelected and, in the case of Kingston, the majority of the members of the CCG board are not GPs, but senior NHS bureaucrats, directors of finance, and so on. They have no real accountability to local people – and many of the leading figures inside the CCGs are exactly the same people who used to lead the PCTs and other organisations which they’re supposed to replace.
The lack of democracy is underlined in the case of Kingston. Members of the public have just three days between the publication of the cuts programme and the CCG meeting on Tuesday 7th May to read the recommendations and submit questions to the board.
And then there’s the revolving door between Better Services Better Values, and the CCGs, which are supposed to be holding them to account. Earlier this year, the Medical Director of BSBV left his job to become the Chair of the consortium of local CCGs, South West London CCGs, who have the final decision over the closures. He was replaced by Marilyn Plant, who’s fresh from the board of Shaping a Healthier Future, the NW London cuts review which is trying to close the A&E departments at Ealing, Charing Cross, Central Middlesex and Hammersmith.
Both the CCGs and BSBV all claim that their board members are medical “practitioners”, and that they are attempting to “reshape” and “improve” services. But the truth is that they are dominated by extremely highly paid NHS managers who are pushing through closures because the government is cutting the NHS budget massively at a national level. For example, Vanessa Lodge, who Kingston CCG advertise as their “nurse member”, has actually been in a Director in various NHS organisations since 2009.
No to cuts – stop the closures dead!
We should oppose these closure plans at every single opportunity. They have nothing to do with improving healthcare and everything to do with laying waste to our local NHS in order to save money for the government.
The CCGs meeting are brilliant opportunities to begin the work of breaking the attack on our NHS by BSBV. If just one CCG doesn’t back the closures, the whole process will have to be repeated, which will take month. We need to build the sort of public pressure that can beat back BSBV every time it comes to cut our local hospitals, until the SW London NHS bosses are forced to throw the whole project in the bin.
We’ve won against BSBV before. In February, the review was postponed after a mass campaign of massive public meetings, petitioning and a march of over 200 people in Kingston. The fear that public pressure would force a judicial review of their procedures meant that they were sent straight back to the drawing board. Now we have to do it all over again – and this time finish them off.