STPs use words like “transformation” and “integration” when they mean cuts and rationing. STPs represent plans to save money. They want to do this by:
1. Reducing the number of GPs surgeries but Kent already has a shortage of qualified doctors. Kent & Medway is the region most at risk of GP shortages according to a national survey.
In Folkestone, seven out of the towns eight practices reported that they were unwilling or unable to take on the 4,700 extra patients needing a new family doctor when East Folkestone Surgery was forced to close.
2. Closing local hospital services and making you travel further for your care. Patients closer to hospitals live longer. Without cheap and reliable public transport people are less likely to access the healthcare they need.
Last year more than 17,000 signed a petition to stop Kent County Council cut “socially necessary” busses serving our most vulnerable. How easily would you be able to get to hospital in an emergency?
3. Encouraging family members to look after people at home rather than in hospital. However, charities suggest that there might be as many as 300,000 lonely elderly people living in Kent. Identifying who has family they can rely on is a difficult and delicate task.
Two in five of every UK businesses are unable or unwilling to offer fully paid compassionate leave and the self employed don’t receive any help. Not everyone is able to financially afford to take time off work to care for others.
4. Encouraging you to use the internet for diagnosis but historic attempts to reduce people going to A&E have failed. Last year the company providing the Kent-wide NHS 111 service was criticised in a report which said patients were put at risk from badly trained staff.
Research suggests that almost twenty per cent of patients wrongly diagnose themselves using the internet with many eventually having to have stronger courses of medication because they delayed seeing their GP. Not all groups have equal access and confidence using the internet.
5. Discharging people from hospital sooner, thereby making them more reliant on care in the community. The adult social care budget in Kent has been cut by 33 per cent since 2010. Even Conservative Leader of Kent County Council describes services as at ‘breaking point”.
In January 2017, social services complained that 86 per cent of patients carefully prepared for discharge by Kent Hospitals weren’t able to move on within six weeks because private contractors simple didn’t have the capacity to take on more people.
6. Selling off our NHS. Care services will be bundled up and delivered by huge US-style private health agencies called Accountable Care Organisations. They will only be accountable to those who commission them, they will decide who gets care and who doesn’t.
Richard Branson and his Virgin Care group already receive more than £126m of public money to run adult care services in Kent. In 2016 local doctors took the organisation to court because they were worried that Branson could only deliver the contract by cutting corners.
7. Capping budgets. When the money is spent, care will stop. In 2017 over 1,700 people had non-emergency surgery cancelled in West Kent in an effort to save money. The Royal College of Surgeons has described Kent hospitals are having “the longest ban” on necessary treatment since the NHS began.