Waveney Labour Group has called for the little known organisation responsible for delivering Norfolk and Waveney’s health and social care to be opened up to greater public scrutiny.
The Norfolk and Waveney Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) brings together health trusts, councils and voluntary organisations to develop a plan for delivering the region’s health and social care services.
The Partnership is working out a plan for coping with pressures forced by the failure of Government spending to meet rising demand for health and social care. It is expected more than £300 million will need to be saved in Norfolk and Waveney over the next five years to make up for the short fall.
The STP aims to free up hospital beds by treating more people at home, using technology to manage health conditions remotely where possible, and promoting alternatives to conventional care, such as walking groups and befriending services provided by local organisations.
Surveys by the Eastern Daily Press have revealed little public awareness of the Partnership. 66.5% said they had never heard of the STP and 89% did not know how to make their voices heard.
Even Norfolk and Waveney STP executive head Antek Lejk has acknowledged a lack of openness, telling Norfolk’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee last October that ‘I have to confess the whole process about setting up the STP was in secret a bit, we were told not to be too involved in public debate.
Cllr Jane Murray, Waveney District Council member for Oulton, said: ‘We are deeply concerned about the Norfolk and Waveney STP’s lack of transparency. The Partnership must engage in more democratic consultation with patients, the public and health sector staff.’
‘Just last month a governor at James Paget University Hospital resigned because of concern that patients and the public are not being given sufficient opportunity to discuss the Norfolk and Waveney STP.
‘NHS England has – belatedly – produced guidance highlighting that wide public consultation is essential for the effectiveness and credibility of the programmes developed by STPs.’
Cllr Murray also expressed concern that the STP is establishing an Accountable Care Organisation (ACO) – a public-private sector partnership in which private health companies work with public authorities – to handle much of the region’s health and social care budget.
Cllr Murray said: ‘I fear a Norfolk and Waveney ACO is being developed in secrecy, totally contrary to the principle that the NHS be transparent and accountable in its decision making.
‘I have called for public meetings to be held in Waveney as soon as possible to discuss the STP. I’ve been informed that the next meetings due to be held will not be open to the public, just to voluntary sector and patient representatives.
‘If you are concerned about the future of our local and national health services join me in writing to the Secretary of Health, Jeremy Hunt and our MP Peter Aldous. Join the local Norfolk and Waveney campaigns, attend the engagement meetings and call for proper public consulation.’