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Hospital closures ruled out by NHS chiefs as councillors discuss new health plan

Health chiefs say hospitals will not close under the new health plan for the region. Photo credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Health chiefs say hospitals will not close under the new health plan for the region. Photo credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

PA Wire

Health chiefs have reiterated that there are no plans to close hospitals as part of a new vision for NHS and social care in Norfolk and Waveney.

But the Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee yesterday became the second body which stopped short of endorsing the current plans, choosing instead to “note” it.

A protest by the NHS Norfolk Action Group preceded the meeting, at County Hall, where Norfolk and Waveney’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) was discussed by councillors.

The STP is being developed to show how NHS services can be delivered without racking up a £416m deficit - as is currently forecast if nothing changes.

Its authors aim to cut the deficit from £416m to £50m by 2021.

However campaigners fear the plans effectively constitute secret vehicles for cuts.

At yesterday’s meeting Dr Wendy Thomson, managing director of Norfolk County Council and the lead for the STP, and Roisin Fallon-Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, were also quizzed by members of the action group, who asked if the plan would lead to more privatisation.

Dr Thomson said the STP would address the region’s failing performance on referral-to-treatment waiting time, which is currently missing national targets.

To improve on this NHS trusts sometimes send patients to private hospitals, usually at greater cost, but Dr Thomson said the STP hopes to ensure more patients are treated at NHS hospitals - thereby reducing the number of patients treated by private providers.

And she insisted the STP chiefs are not discussing closing hospitals or making radical changes that have been suggested in STPs across the country.

During the wide-ranging discussion councillor Lana Hempsall said the plan would not succeed unless supermarkets are “brought to heel” over their promotions of unhealthy food, while councillor Emma Corlett warned any overhaul of the system risked creating problems such as those experienced by the region’s mental health trust in 2012-13.

Concerns over a lack of public consultation and the region’s GP retention challenge were also highlighted by councillors.

But Dr Thomson said the plan would be delivered by transferring more hospital services to the community and improving public health.

However the committee opted against endorsing the STP. Patient champion body Healthwatch Norfolk did this last month when the STP was published.

More details what the STP will mean for Norfolk and Waveney’s NHS will emerge next year.

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