NHS bosses ‘do not have all the answers’ on plans to transform health services in Sussex - but have promised to engage patients while they try to find them.
Sussex and East Surrey is one of 44 areas across the country to produce a Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) to deliver changes needed to save billions of pounds over the next few years.
Health campaigners across Sussex have written to Michael Wilson, STP lead for Sussex and East Surrey, expressing concern that at a ‘complete public silence from the board’ since November when a £864 million deficit under a ‘do nothing’ was revealed.
In response Mr Wilson, also chief executive of the Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust which runs East Surrey Hospital in Redhill, said: “We simply do not have all the answers and I know that we will not find them without fully engaging our public and our patients.”
He added: “The scale of change that is needed is unprecedented and it will take time, longer than we anticipated, to work with our patients and the public to determine the right solutions.
“I accept we could and should have done more to engage with our key stakeholders and public around the process so far and this is a key priority for me.”
He gave his personal assurance that ‘no decisions have been made’ and told the campaigners that they could not make changes without patients ‘being at the heart of that process’.
The STP would aim to make it easier to see a GP, speed up diagnosis of cancer, offer help faster to people with mental health illnesses, and encourage the public to take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing’.
Signatories to the original letter included: Sussex Defend the NHS, Coastal West Sussex 38 degrees NHS Group, Crawley and District Keep Our NHS Public (Crawley, Horsham, Redhill and Reigate), Don’t Cut us Out West Sussex, Save Southlands Hospital Group, Worthing People’s Assembly, Brighton and Hove Green Party, Eastbourne People’s Assembly, Brighton and Hove Trades Council, and Eastbourne Trades Council.
The letter concluded: “As you can see from the signatories to this letter the STP Board proposals are stirring public outrage across the region, further stoked by the secrecy and obfuscation which characterises the operations of your board.
“We very much hope you and the board will give meaningful responses to our questions and points and address the disastrous implications of the STP outlined.”
The signatories raised concern about the legal status and accountability of STP boards and asked for assurance that any powers would not be used to ‘force through top-down decisions with which there is stakeholder disagreement’.
Mr Wilson replied: “I can confirm that no decisions will be made without full, open and honest stakeholder and public engagement.”
They also asked and were given an assurance by Mr Wilson that no changes would be made to hospital provision before full and extensive consultation.
The letter also raised concerns about potential cuts to social care services and suggested this could ‘substantially increase the numbers of people falling through the social care net with grave consequences’.
Mr Wilson replied: “The STP does not exist to shift problems around an already stretched system.
“Membership of the programme board includes representatives from all the local authority social care providers in the footprint and we are all working towards sustainable solutions for both the NHS and social care services.”
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