‘Airy-fairy’ health plans under fire from council scrutiny committee

Lincolnshire County Council health scrutiny committee chairman Coun Christine Talbot.
Lincolnshire County Council health scrutiny committee chairman Coun Christine Talbot.

Major healthcare plans which aim to save £130 million have again been heavily criticised - with a key document being dubbed ‘airy-fairy’ and full of ‘contradictions’.

Health bosses have looked to create a super-streamlined service across Lincolnshire by 2021, laying out proposals in the Lincolnshire Sustainability and Transformation Plan.

The report was produced by Lincolnshire Health and Care and considers options including moving consultant-led maternity to Lincoln, with Boston being downgraded.

There are also options which would see Grantham lose its A&E status and the centralisation of some services between Louth and Skegness.

But on Wednesday at the county council’s health scrutiny committee meeting Coun Steve Palmer declared: “It’s full of repetition, padding and contradictions. It’s just too airy-fairy.

“Part of it seeks to shift responsibilities from the NHS to the county council which would face additional pressure on its adult and social care resources.”

Coun Sue Wray expressed concern that there was no reference to shortfalls in county neurology resources.

“Every neurology patient referral is now going out of the county,”she protested.

Chairman Coun Christine Talbot was disappointed that palliative, end-of-life care has also missed out on discussion in the report.

She expressed outrage that, over the past three years during which the report has been steadily compiled, the total cost of its production had reached £4.3 million - plus £67,000 in PR costs.

Coun Rosemary Kaberry-Brown said the money would have been better spent on nursing and other care activities.

Committee vice-chairman Coun Chris Brewis said the report failed to take into account a ‘tsunami’ of problems over the horizon as a result of people living longer and having complex medical needs.

Gary James, of Lincolnshire East Clinical Commissioning Group, acknowledged that some of the language might not be easy to understand. “It’s a NHS document, not a public-facing document,” he observed.

He said the underlying principle was that more health care needed to be delivered within the home rather than in hospitals or related facilities.

The report, while praising the hard work of staff to provide excellent care, accepts widespread shortfalls in the level of healthcare in Lincolnshire.

It lays out problems including the difficulty of seeing GPs, patients travelling too far to hospitals by car that could be delivered by their GP, at home or in their community and the length of time it can take to get people.

The STP pinpoints how things ‘must’ change in order to meet ever-increasing challenges, including: seven-day-a-week access to GP services, more choice for women about their births,the creation of a network of Urgent Care Centres, a single-site hyper-acute stroke service.

Subject to some possible minor modifications, the STP document is due to go out to formal public consultation in May 2017.

l What do you think? Email the editor stephenstray@jpress.co.uk