Government set to take over running of NHS services in Thurrock

THURROCK Council has reacted to the news that government regulators are set to take over the running of NHS services in Essex.

The unprecedented move will see three key national NHS bodies intervene to dictate how local services tackle longstanding problems such as understaffing, financial trouble and poor care.

Essex is just one of three areas in the country that has been selected.

YT wil be gathering responses from all relevant organisations including Thurrock Council, Basildon Hospital and the Thurrock Clinical Commissioning Groups.

In response to the statement by Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, Thurrock Council’s portfolio holder for adult social care and health, Cllr Barbara Rice, said:

“We have been concerned about the issues affecting the NHS locally and regionally for some time and welcome this strategic approach across Essex.

“However, there are two important things that must also be realised. Essex is not a one-size-fits-all area and it is really important local areas – like Thurrock – are properly represented and properly listened to.

“Equally this must not be seen as an NHS-only issue or solution. Cuts to Adult Social Care budgets are putting increasing pressure on the NHS and on our own services too; it is a never-ending and merciless circle – cuts to adult care impact on the health service and then increased pressure on hospitals and GPs leads to more demand on adult care … and on, and on, and on.

“For these reasons alone it is imperative local Public Health and local Adult Social Care representatives must be fully involved in the process. Freezing us out would be short-sighted and counter-productive.

“Over the coming days we will examine these proposals fully and we will make sure local people know what’s happening, when, and why.”

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, outlined the move on Wednesday in a speech to 3,000 local NHS leaders gathered in Liverpool for the NHS Confederation’s annual conference.

The new scheme is different to the “special measures” regime that Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, introduced for individual failing hospitals after Robert Francis QC’s landmark report in 2013 into the Mid Staffs scandal.

What the NHS is calling “whole-systems intervention” is needed because often problems besetting one hospital are part of wider problems in their locality, Stevens said. The various acute hospitals in Essex are understood to be about £150m in deficit, for example.

Previous efforts to turn around individual hospital trusts – such as repeated financial bailouts, regular replacement of chief executives and inspections – have not done the job, he said.

“We are going to both nationally and locally bring to bear a full range of flexibilities and say what is our holistic diagnosis as to what needs to change in this individual health economy, not just go and inspect individual institutions or set individual cash limits,” Stevens said.

NHS England said: “The aim is to improve care and sustainability of services for patients. The three areas are facing some of the most significant challenges in England. They will begin work to make improvements this summer and further areas may enter at a later point.”

The new approach will see NHS England working in partnership with Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority, which both regulate England’s 160 acute hospital trusts. They will draw up radical plans to overhaul how all the different types of local NHS organisations across large areas are run and deliver care.

Working with local NHS care providers, they will push through determined action to ensure hospitals, GP surgeries and other NHS service providers work together much more closely to tackle deep-seated problems which previous initiatives have failed to banish.

Previously failing hospital trusts have been placed in special measures – 23 in all so far – but this is the first time that this type of takeover across multiple trusts spanning whole regions has been enacted. It will reignite the debate about the current state of the NHS and its funding.

The move is part of the NHS Five Year Forward View, the blueprint for the service’s future, which Stevens and fellow bosses of other key NHS bodies published last year.

An NHS background briefing on the move published on Wednesday explains: “The problems in these health and care economies are often deep-rooted, longstanding and spread across the whole system as opposed to individual organisations. Local and national organisations may have worked hard for some time to improve services for patients and the public, but not made the required progress.

“Transformation is therefore now required, and this will only be achieved if national and local leaders take a different approach to those taken previously, which has not yet delivered the expected improvements for patients and the public.”

The British Medical Association said that more areas would start to fall under the “success regime” if ministers continued to push the NHS to deliver even greater efficiencies.

Hunt warned the NHS in an article in the Daily Telegraph this week that, with ministers having pledged to give it the £8bn extra funding by 2020 that Stevens has requested, the health service needed to to press on with making £22bn of “substantial and significant efficiency savings” in return.

Dr Mark Porter, chair of council at the doctors’ union, the British Medical Association, said: “This unprecedented move underscores the abject failure of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to address the underlying pressures on NHS services.

“The expensive and unnecessary reorganisation diverted attention away from the real problems facing the NHS such as the service coordination and chronic funding pressures.

“The need for this sort of dramatic intervention is likely to increase if the government continues to pursue its drive for yet more ‘efficiencies’, instead of properly addressing inadequate NHS funding in the face of rising demand for health and care services.”

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