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‘Cutting and privatising’ concern over plan to overhaul region’s health service and make £300m in savings

Healthwatch Norfolk chairman William Armstrong. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Healthwatch Norfolk chairman William Armstrong. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

NHS patients and staff from across Norfolk and Waveney have been sharing their views on plans to transform the region’s health system at a series of events organised by the county’s health watchdog.

STP consultation event at King's Lynn Town Hall. Photo: Healthwatch NorfolkSTP consultation event at King's Lynn Town Hall. Photo: Healthwatch Norfolk

The meetings were set up by Healthwatch in response to public concerns over a lack of available information on future plans for local services under the sustainability transformation partnership (STP) - a collective of NHS and public sector partners tasked with meeting the challenges facing the future delivery of our health and social care.

Separate sessions held in King’s Lynn, Norwich and Great Yarmouth focused on the future shape of local GP services and also discussed the delivery of key hospital specialisms in urology, cardiology and radiology.

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The vision put forward for GP services included better care co-ordination, new community based specialist support, practices working together to share skills, expertise and resource, and widening practice teams to include a broader range of health professionals - all designed to free up GP’s time to focus on people with the most difficult problems.

While some attendees remained frustrated at the lack of detail, health bosses maintained they were still in the early stages of developing plans and a host of further consultations will follow.

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The Healthwatch events were intended to gain public perspective on the initial concepts, as well as understand what is working well and what could be improved.

Healthwatch Norfolk chairman, William Armstrong, led the discussions at all six events said: “It comes as no surprise that people really value the NHS and its staff.

“Some people are sceptical about the STP and have concerns it’s about cutting and privatising services. There clearly needs to be more engagement across the board and with the workforce in particular, but it was wonderful to see staff who are clearly very passionate about their patients’ care turn out in force.

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“GP access for routine appointments is a key issue and people would like to see opening hours extended or appointments offered in different ways. If this is something that matters to you then please make sure you complete the NHS survey running until 15 December

“I think people understand the concept of GP practices working more closely together and this is already happening in some areas, but there are mixed views about extending the range of professionals working within them.

“Patients are already familiar with going to different hospitals for routine or specialist care, but given the geography of Norfolk there are real concerns around travel times and transport links.

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“I think those who attended the meetings appreciated the opportunity to be involved. It’s now down to the STP executive board to show they’ve been listened to and keep people updated as plans develop.

“We will strive to ensure this happens and encourage more people to get involved every step of the way, but the proposed cuts to our own funding will inevitably reduce the level of support we are able to provide.

“Mental health services remain a key concern for many patients and their families. We still await details of any plans in this area, but we do know that events focused around maternity services will be planned early in the New Year, so do look out for those.”

The presentations and a summary of the points raised at the meetings are available on the Healthwatch Norfolk website.

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